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ReBuild Democracy: Vote

May 27, 2010

Timothy Leary’s famous catch phrase was “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”   I didn’t then.  I’m not going to now.

Way back in the “’60s” and a Methodist at that time, I held that my body was “a temple of God,” and I wouldn’t corrupt it with mind altering drugs.  As a person of conscience, I wouldn’t simply tune into the popular.  As a citizen, I saw my job as finding a way to drop into government, not out of it.  I made a choice to be part of a solution to the problems of war, of misspent tax dollars, of racism.

Now in the “oughts” of the 21st century, I remain determined to “drop in.”  A lot of people aren’t.  Polls indicate that majorities – composed of right, center, and left political views – so distrust government that they’ve decided to drop out.

I understand the feeling of distrust.  I’ve found that I have to wake up in the morning and make that choice each day.  The choice isn’t a matter of ideas but of practice.  What I do or don’t do today is my choice.  I’m choosing by my actions.

When I think of the continuing war in Afghanistan, the Gulf oil spill on top of the Katrina disaster, the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, the paltry settlement for Native Americans in the Cobell case, the Senate foot dragging on ratification of nuclear arms control treaties, the fear of presidents to sign the Landmine Ban Treaty, and the huge piece of the federal pie eaten by military contractors every year, I want to stand up and be heard.

Interesting to me, disaster studies of what works in response to a dirty bomb threat indicate that top down direction doesn’t work.  In fact, groups of ordinary people came up with as good or better recommendations of what to do to protect the public in such situations than did individual experts.  We ordinary people have something valuable to offer when we inform ourselves, organize ourselves, and mobilize ourselves.

So, what’s my choice today?  I’m going to try to influence the congressional mid-term election debates.  I’m going to try to influence members of Congress and candidates for Congress to get serious about saving our species from the existential threat of human caused global warming.  I’m going to try to move incumbents and candidates from inane attention to the “urgent but unimportant” to the “long term and important” matters of public policy.

If you’ve read any of my blogs , you may know that I see an analogy between FCNL’s green building – the first green building on Capitol Hill – and our country.  In the mid 1990s, engineers informed us that our FCNL House on Capitol Hill was falling down.  We had to decide what to do.  We could leave it to others by moving off the Hill.  We could rebuild our house by accepting a huge job of fundraising and construction.  Our committee struggled with these choices in meetings for worship.

Ultimately, our committee chose the hardest course of action.  We would rebuild our house on Capitol Hill, and we would make it as green as we could.  The four years of fundraising and the two years of construction were very difficult, and that is an understatement.  However, the outcome has been worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

Now, instead of FCNL’s falling down house on Capitol Hill, we face a bigger problem:  our falling down house of Democracy.  A bigger problem needs a bigger response.  That’s where you come in.  We can’t rebuild our House of Democracy without your election year work.  We need to get eligible voters registered.  We need to mobilize eligible voters to ask candidates questions about the important long term policy issues.  We need to get out the vote in November.  Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Socialist, Libertarian, or of another political persuasion, get engaged in this election year’s debates.  I’m convinced you’ll become a part of the construction crew that eventually rebuilds our house of democracy.

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