Last week, someone sent out a blast email where I work. A local shelter had several children in need of Christmas gifts, the program that usually stepped in was overwhelmed, and could we help?
That message was a perfect example of the power of one person to make a difference in her community. She sent up the Bat Signal just because she could, and in the process, she made the world suck less in a small, but quantifiable, way.
Now, I don’t know her, but I’m willing to bet that this isn’t the first time she’s stepped up – and it probably won’t be the last, either.
If you are wondering what this has to do with democracy, my answer in one word is “everything.”
Helping People is Political
Democracy can be messy, disorganized, and inefficient, and it has many other fine qualities too. Those traits make it harder – though not impossible – to concentrate power.
I don’t know about you, but the reason I care about power is that, when too few people get to have it, there is more suffering.
There is a virtuous cycle connecting my colleague’s email and the work of democracy at large: whatever reduces suffering makes it possible for more people to participate in governance, and when more people have a meaningful role in our democracy, there is less suffering.
What you do matters
Earlier this month, I wrote about our national heritage of self-governance, and I said that we need to act instead of waiting for a hero. No matter how bad it looks now, I guarantee that things will get worse if we don’t all dig in and work for what we believe in.
As of January 20th, on a national scale one party will control the House, the Senate, and the White House. That party has, again and again, shown its indifference to the suffering of regular Americans and its hostility to democracy.
In Alaska, that same party has had a majority in both houses of the State Legislature for all but 4 years since 1995. They’ve talked a good game about fiscal responsibility while running our budget into the ground.
What I’m saying is: there’s plenty of room for you to be a part of the work that needs to get done.
What’s Your Difference?
Approximately 10,000 people in House Districts 33 and 34 voted for Hillary Clinton.
What could we accomplish if we all showed up, every week, even if it was just for an hour?
What lives could we save, what democratic institutions could we protect, what good could we do with 10,000 hours of self interest, rightly understood in our communities per week?
Now, don’t get me wrong: there are people out there who have been stalwart advocates for civil rights, government integrity, and general righteousness for decades. If you are one of these people, I salute you and am in your debt.
However, if this fall was a turning point for you, and you want to begin to take up your part of the work of democracy, there is something that won’t get done unless you do it. I don’t know what it is, but I know it exists if you look for it.
If you want help finding out exactly what that something can be, come to the Tongass Democrats meeting on January 5th and introduce yourself.
Big or little, Your Difference matters.
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