In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s voting season. It’s a bit different from duck season and rabbit season, but allow me the metaphor for a minute. Substitute Jo Citizen for the hunter, the politicians for the game, and our collective voice as the weapon. Voting season is about shouting at the top of our lungs and aiming our words at the politicians. We don’t want just any politician–we want one who will listen to our needs and the needs of the community. So, if you’re out there, listen up! Here’s a few things you might want to do.
- Quit banning things that aren’t dangerous. There was a time when our governments worked against discriminatory practices. Laws were passed to protect our civil rights. Somehow this has changed to writing laws that prohibit behaviors and activities rather than protecting them. “If you don’t like it, ban it!” Well, besides being a waste of time and money these bans on behavior and activities are infringing on our civil rights and cutting off the voices of the American citizens who voted you into office. Case in point: citizens are banned from wearing costumes? What’s next, a bathroom ban?
- Learn how much things cost. If you’re going to be setting budgets, cutting funding and advocating for specific programs, you should know what it costs to educate, feed, clothe and care for someone in your community. Perhaps if you knew these costs you would eagerly support programs that help parents with afterschool care and mentoring. Maybe if you knew what a gallon of milk cost you would increase the support for school lunch assistance programs and backpack buddies programs.
- Learn about the internet. As Joshua Kopstein writes so well, you need to start listening and educating yourself about the world around you–especially the “series of tubes” we citizens use every day. This is the path forward, it’s not an option for you to know next to nothing about how it works or why. You are in your position to manage the interests of your constituency, and they need your help to protect their access to the online world. Educators are currently using the web in classrooms; the unemployed are surfing it to find jobs; and you are currently reading this blog on it (we hope). It’s important, so get learnin’.
- Support programs that help people. Be an advocate whenever you can for small businesses and nonprofits that make it their business to help people. They are doing the work for our community. Support grant programs and public-private partnerships. Seek state and national funding for programs that help children, the elderly, the disabled, the battered and the sick. Fund programs that make a difference and show results.
- Work to end poverty. The Census Bureau reported the number of Americans living below the poverty line was the highest level in 52 years. We need our leaders to fight against the growing inequality in this country. We can’t have leaders who don’t care about the poor. Occupy Wall Street protests should be a wake up call to all of us that we are a nation of extremes in which over 14% of our households face food insecurity.
- Restore education funding. How are kids going to succeed when they have fewer resources, less one-on-one time with a teacher, no cultural enrichment experiences, and no after school care? These are things that cause many kids to drop out of school. Once they drop out a third to nearly half of them will end up on welfare or in jail. So here’s an idea–instead of cutting these programs how ’bout we expand the most succesful ones? Let’s actually work together to help children reach their full potential and exceed our expectations.
As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will… The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’”
Let us live these words of compassion and strive to be a better nation. Please, help us become that great nation.