How many times have we used the excuse one person can’t possibly make a difference to soothe our souls, then we walk away from an issue? We’ve all been taught, “You can’t fight city hall”. It was a saying that became popular in the 1800’s when a political organizer in New York, Tommy Hall, became so powerful it seemed impossible to fight him. At its heart is the hopeless, cynical belief no one can actually impact governmental policies and decisions. That these institutions and politicians are so powerful, they can follow their own agenda regardless of the constituents who voted them into office.
And in so many ways this is sadly accurate causing us to feel angry and powerless.
It’s been clearly established that the vast majority of both political parties are in favor of:
- Reasonable gun laws that keep guns out of the hands of children and those who are mentally ill. Prohibiting the sales of assault rifles, doing background checks and passing red flag laws that allow police and family to keep weapons away from those considered a risk to themselves or others. Requiring those who carry concealed weapons to have a permit. Almost a quarter of the US population says gun violence has impacted their life in some way.
- Over 60 percent of all Americans are in favor of legal abortions within the first trimester. And the majority agree it should be legal at any time in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk. The majority are horrified at the idea a safe medication used for over two decades could be outlawed, putting at risk every other medication on the market today.
- Nine out of ten voters are opposed to partisan gerrymandering. A means by which one party gets an unfair advantage over another. Instead of straight lines that make reasonable sense to define districts, they can become so convoluted in order to exclude “certain voters”. One side of a neighborhood street could be in one district and the other side in a different one.
Yet the minority rules in these and so many other cases.
Too often it feels like we’re spitting into the wind (another great saying I love that evokes just how most of us feel when speaking up) but sometimes you just never know where those spittles may end up or how your words affected others. How many times did a teacher, healthcare provider, friend, parent, speech, moment in history, news story, book, even a stranger impact us in ways never acknowledged? I know how much a casual compliment at just the right moment or a heartfelt story made me feel.
Shutting down and quitting isn’t the answer. Up against so many consequential issues it’s time we all stepped up regardless of the outcome. We can fight city hall and force changes. We’ve already seen those results in the states where gerrymandering and abortion right questions get on the ballot. They always win.
Here are ways to start:
- Attend local political meetings and voicing your concerns. Sadly, most city and county meetings go ignored. Your voice can’t be heard if it’s only yelled in your home or at your TV.
- Write opinions to the editor of newspapers to voice your concerns. Respond appropriately to online blogs that influence others.
- Ask someone with the best credentials and expertise to add their voice. Sit behind them (coordinate your clothes to stand out and show unity) in as large a number as possible to show support at local forums.
- Overwhelming dissent through peaceful protests by the thousands is hard to ignore.
- Follow the guidelines required to petition a vote on a certain topic for the next election. We have all seen how well it worked in Kansas, Montana, Michigan, Vermont and Kentucky for abortion rights.
- Find an organization that agrees with your opinions and join forces. Just be careful to investigate thoroughly to insure they speak and present as you would.
- Call and email your representatives. Let them know where you stand. Too often this simple and easy way to communicate is ignored.
- Don’t be afraid to speak out, but always remain civil, respectful and courteous.
- Be prepared. Bring along facts, data and any information that supports your position. Is a stop sign needed to prevent accidents at a particular corner? Cite the problems that have already occurred in order to prove your point.
- Vote. Vote. Vote. It’s the surest way to ensure change.
Nothing changes if we don’t take a stand and make our concerns known. It’s futile to scream at the news every night. These are concrete ways to feel productive. Our voices matter. But they can only encourage change when we not only speak out, but back them with appropriate action.