Monday, May 29, 2017

What is Your Level of Political Engagement?

It is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal. -Aristotle
Protesting Senate Bill 4 today at the Capitol, which makes Texas a "show me your papers" state and encourages racial profiling.

Today is Memorial Day, a day not of celebration but of sober reflection. In the 241 years of this country's life, thousands of men and women in the military have died defending it and the rights of the people in it. Today is a day to be grateful for their service.

A big part of that gratitude is never taking those rights for granted.

During Bernie Sanders' 2016 election campaign, the most important and oft-repeated theme was that of "securing our democracy." While his talk of 'revolution' was rhetorical in nature, the point stands that it would be truly revolutionary for the American people to be fully represented in our democracy, as true representation is the absolute prerequisite to all justice and progress. There are numerous things standing in the way of such representation:
  • money in politics, such as that brought about by the Citizens United decision
  • gerrymandering, which is designed to suppress minorities and opposing political parties
  • voter ID laws, which are also designed to suppress minorities
  • our two-party system, which maintains obsolete power structures and unfairly groups political issues
  • first-past-the-post voting, which inevitably results in two parties
  • and finally, voter turnout. Only a bit more than half of the voting age population voted in the 2016 presidential election, the most contentious election in modern history. There are numerous reasons for this, and numerous solutions proposed, such as voting holidays, automatic registration, and/or compulsory voting.
The American Revolution was fueled by the slogan of "no taxation without representation," taken up by a people who believed their rights were being denied. After fighting for those rights, the people secured them by amending a Bill of Rights to our constitution, and those rights enable us to freely engage with the political process today. To secure our democracy and make it truly representative, we must exercise those rights in order to organize political power among the people. If we fail to do so, we invite tyranny, persecution, and oppression into our homes and the homes of our neighbors.

But you already knew that. That's pretty basic America stuff.

Numerous times throughout history the people have had to mobilize in order to fight and die for a more fair and livable Republic. Without their sacrifice, we wouldn't have the eight-hour workday, or civil rights, things which are taken for granted today. As inequality deepens in our country, with stagnating wages, increasing debt, a broken healthcare system, persecution of immigrants, poor education, and the oncoming mass obsolescence of laborers, now more than ever the people need to be in the driver's seat of this country. We need true representation to face our current and upcoming challenges. This is an inflection point in history, and if we don't act swiftly and decisively, our fates will be decided for us by the likes of Greg Abbot, Dan Patrick, Donald Trump, and Mike Pence. Christianists and White Supremacists will continue to cut out anybody that doesn't fit into their ideal world.

The following is a scale of political engagement to both help the user be aware of their current contributions as well as opportunities for further action. This is by no means comprehensive of all of the things you can do, and it does reflect a certain view of how politics works (many anarchists may find this irrelevant or even offensive). I didn't make it to judge, but to educate. If you ever wonder "what can I do?" the answer is simple: take your political engagement to the next level.
  1. Entertainment - you watch the news, talk shows, youtube, twitter, reddit, facebook, and you're regularly outraged. You like, share, and post. Sometimes you get into arguments. Most people do this to some degree.
  2. Civic Duty - you vote consistently, making sure that your principles and beliefs are represented when it's time to choose those who will be making and enforcing the laws.
  3. Civic Engagement - you regularly attend protests, contact your representatives, and encourage others to do the same, among other actions. You may donate money to organizations or political candidates that represent your interests.
  4. Civic Organizing - you're an active member of a grassroots interest group, such as the Democratic Socialists of America, that promotes candidates and organizes actions of civic engagement. You may also be part of a non-profit organization such as the ACLU or Planned Parenthood. You may also volunteer for your political party of choice, or for election campaigns for candidates you believe in.
  5. Civic Leadership - you're a leader in a grassroots group, a non-profit organization, or a political party. You may also be an elected official.
If enough people become more engaged in the political process, we may yet have true representation in this country and be better equipped to handle the challenges that it faces. Until then we remain in peril.

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