As I mentioned last time, I recently had the opportunity to visit with Jon Bauman, who you may remember as “Bowzer” of the musical group and TV show Sha Na Na.)
The morning Jon and I met, the U.S. Senate had just passed the procedural vote on health care, with Senator Murkowski voting no (WooHoo!), so our discussion centered on Senator Murkowski and the future of health care. But we discussed a wide variety of progressive issues, how they’re faring in Alaska, and where we’re headed politically.
Jon’s infectious enthusiasm made me want to get in the trenches and immediately urge everyone I know to contact our senators. I felt empowered to use every means I have access to, to call every senator possibly sitting on the fence and beg them to please vote no on repealing the ACA, in whatever form that repeal may take in our U.S. Congress.
The temptation to despair
At the same time, I told Jon, I also struggle with feeling empty: the grueling 2016 campaign season and our many Democratic losses just wore me out. I am proud of our newly all-Democratic representation in the State Legislature, and I am grateful for their perseverance this year. But at the same time, that sometimes seems like one bright spot in a dark world.
We talked about all the losses that kicked me in the gut in 2016, and how sometimes it feels like trying to create a better, more just future for America is fighting an uphill losing battle. Jon shared some wisdom that encouraged me, and I want to share it with you.
He said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that this time in our history is just a set-back in progressive movement. If we look back in history, we have made enormous progress: ending slavery, the union movement for workers’ rights, the suffragette movement to get women the right to vote, the civil rights movement ending desegregation and discrimination based on color, and currently the LGBTQ movement which has gained huge strides in human rights in a very short period of time.
All of the people working toward those goals faced these same feelings at different times. For example, in 1850, Congress signed a law that made it easier to hunt down people who had escaped from slavery – how devastating that must have felt to those working to end that despicable tradition!
But they were less than a generation away from the end of slavery in the United States.
Shining bright in the darkness
We too are in a dark time, with a future imperiled by anti-science, anti-human rights, anti-American leadership and cultural forces.
These are reactions to the improvements that progressives have made in the human condition, and there are far more of us who want a freer, more just future than those who want to go back to the past.
It is a dark time, but there are so many of us who are holding candles!
The things we are doing in our daily lives make a difference. Every day, we create the better future we want when we:
- call out racism as cruel and weak,
- demonstrate respect for each other’s differences, and
- refuse to sit down and shut up in the face of injustice, cruelty, and fearful ignorance.
All of these things are tough to do day in and day out, and there are times when you are going to be tired and wonder how you can keep going. When you have those moments, I will hold you up. And when I have a moment like that, I ask that you hold me up.
Moving society in a progressive direction takes a long time. There are many setbacks, many losses, and sometimes a few wins.
We will keep fighting the progressive fights: education and health care for all, protections for our environment, human rights for all, and ending terrorism and war around our world.
And there will come a day when we look back on this as the darkness before the dawn.
Until next time.…
Chair, Tongass Democrats
The views in this opinion piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of TongassDemocrats.com or the Tongass Democrats.