A Time to Vote
Voting, Not Voting, and What Really Matters
Voting doesn't interest me as much as public conversations and gatherings.
And yet it is the beauty of democracy that public conversations and gatherings are what voting creates.
As for actually going to the polls, I can still hear in my head the cliches.
"Why should I vote? It doesn't matter. Look what
happened in Florida!"
But today something has changed, and I like it. People are talking and
listening. People are making blockbuster movies. People are starting powerful organizations and businesses. People are having conversations and actually changing their notions about what is possible. Even Republicans.
My mother, a high-powered divorce
attorney in Chicago, had been a Republican for 35 years. And then she denounced her party. "Bush stole my party!" she gasped. "This is not classic
Republicanism, this is fanaticism! George W. is pulling a King George III,
only this is much worse. Something new needs to happen."
Is that something new a new
president? Let's say Kerry wins by a landslide. He's in the White House. Then what? A log stops up
the damn, so to speak. This isn't something that excites me. Either way – whether Bush weasels his way back in or
Kerry gets the right people on his wagon and shines a bright lawyerly smile –
who wins the presidency, to me, is not really the point.
What Really Matters
What do we want our world to look like in 500 years? What is our vision? And how can we use our
gifts today to plant the seeds that will make that vision reality?
we want our children's children to experience civil liberties? What can
we do together today to create a better, more sustainable, more responsible, more
accountable tomorrow? Most importantly, how can we do so within the microcosm
of our own lives in such a way that our conscious choices radiate out to the world?
Asking these questions is the first thing that matters. Participating in the collective actions that the answers prescribe is, to me, the real power of democracy. This is the power of people engaging in a public discourse. This is the power of collaborating with a vision. This is the power of voting.
Joan Blades, an "accidental activist", started MoveOn.org because one day
back in 1998 she realized for the sake of her son and for the sake of future generations it was not acceptable to feel powerless and voiceless. It was not acceptable to sit back and fearfully watch what was happening in Washington. She was compelled to try something bold.
So, exhausted with the media's overblown rhetoric and the
Republicans' dirty work in the Monica Lewinsky affair, she put together a
one-sentence petition asking Congress to censure President Clinton and 'move
on' to the other pressing issues facing the nation. Blades sent out her petition to a
few dozen friends and family members. Within a week, a hundred thousand
people had signed the petition. At that point, she figured the amazing
response would be a flash in the pan. Then, half a million
people had signed it. Today, MoveOn.org is at 2 million plus.
"I'm in this position of seeing people come together," Blades told me, when I reached her by phone. "It's especially powerful when someone comes forward after feeling like their voice has been unheard and in the wilderness." She seemed to know deep down that connection and change are possible. "When we hear all the voices and the personal stories of people," she added, we can begin to change. "Our media and our politicians have us believing that we're far more separated than we actually
are. That's why the stories of people are so important. They connect us and
make us see that we're closer than we think."
With her "accidental activism," Joan Blades reveals that the impetus for change often comes when people simply gather together and inspire one another – particularly in response to an intolerable situation. The gathering creates a vortex of momentum, and change becomes possible in our daily lives as well as in the future we are creating for our children and their children.
There's nothing quite like removing our egos from the power of
possibility. Are we here for ourselves? Do we live in a world of one? If so,
then the vote really does not matter. But if we strive to honor our friends,
our families, and future generations, then we have something for which to
work, beyond ourselves. Then we see - we feel - that people can connect. And
then we can build bridges between many worlds. From there, we are moving
with the tides of the great forces of the universe.
Fear and Awakening
It is inherent in human nature to gather. To bring our children into the
folds of community, of family, of support. This is always true, and yet, from one perspective, there's a
disturbing lack of togetherness in America these days. There's an almost overwhelming sense of alienation
and disconnection. There's tremendous anxiety and fear, and it's the fear, more than anything else, that has the potential to derail us. The fear is what we have to confront – and embrace.
Fear is there in all of us. It's there, like a storm cloud. But it isn't impenetrable. And once we can see through the fear, beyond it, underneath it, then we can have a good
cry once in a while about it – our fear – and even make friends with the darkness out there and with our own dark shadow side. Then that dark side can actually be put in
service to the light. And then they, the dark and light within all of us, can
become our very best friends. Then we can begin to access the magic of being
a temporary human vessel of limitlessness. Fumbling in the face of fear is
important, for it can become our barometer for when things are really
terrific and when they are truly terrible. Fear can fuel or paralyze us. But fear
alone is a fuse that cannot survive. Eventually, it dies out as we let go of it. This is
what we are seeing today – a resurgence of light, of hope, of authenticity. Being
"real" is becoming so damn attractive because the crap with which we are bombarded
creates a profound desire for something more meaningful. Where can we
connect? Where can we truly be ourselves without any veils? Where can we be
completely unguarded, vulnerable, safe, and strong?
This, I am sure, is the vision, the hope, the political optimism that is percolating. I can feel it in my bones.
Once we forgive and find gentleness with our dark side, once we allow
ourselves to be vulnerable, then a shining force within awaits us. Then we
can begin to access the awe and stunning power we have to share. Then we can become "accidental activists." We can become Joan Blades. We can "accidentally" – since we may never expect it – find ourselves in a place of tremendous power and potential.
Yes, the sense we sometimes have of tremendous fear can feel continuous, endless. That's the point. To be in a constant state of fear has the ability to either paralyze us or wake us up
out of the dark. For every negative there is always a positive. Which
one do we want to choose? Fear or awakening? It is a choice. It is a vote.
Join the Renaissance
My fellow Americans, we are in the midst of a renaissance. We have a
great opportunity to make new choices. We have a
great opportunity to model change and possibility. And we are beginning to do it. This
is the power of voting.
"Why should I vote? It
doesn't matter. Look what happened in Florida!"
I can say out loud that, yes, a single vote
really is not going to matter. One blade of grass in a field is
insignificant. Yet that blade of grass is insignificant only if it is perceived to be standing alone. The question before us about voting is less about one vote than it is about the way we choose to live our lives. If we,
as a collective, see each blade of grass as a part of the whole field, and our actions as part of a collective, then we move towards awakening instead of fear. And if we see each vote as part of building a vision for future generations, then we can see voting as one of the most significant actions we can take.
Ahri Golden is a writer, dancer, drummer, yogi, passionate lover of life
and Nature, award-winning public radio producer, and events producer
for Studio Rasa in Berkeley, CA. She is grateful for Jay, her tremendous
husband, her family, and her community of friends. Please feel free to contact her
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