This article was originally published for The Retiree Advocate at psara.org in March 2016.
I wish I could have a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation about the 2016 elections with each of you. I can’t, so I will try through this article.
One of my greatest joys is my twice weekly play dates with Walter, my four year-old grandson. If Walter is lucky, he will live into the 22nd century. Almost every visit I ask myself if I am doing enough to ensure that he will grow into adulthood with the world moving toward a more positive future. I don’t ever want him to ask me, “Why didn’t you and your generation do more to give me a better world in which to start my adult life?”
Some of my least favorite activities are the conversations that focus on how awful the Republican primary fights are. I agree their debates and rhetoric are filled with an extraordinary amount of racism, sexism, homophobia, immigrant bashing, union bashing, Muslim bashing, climate change denying, warmongering, hate stirring, etc., etc. If I missed any revolting and disgusting categories, please feel free to add them. These are truly perilous times.
I want to interrupt these conversations by saying, “Enough of talking about how screwed up these people and their views are. I share your heartfelt disgust, contempt, and concerns about where these people would lead us. I understand the need to vent. But let’s also talk about what you and I and our families and friends are going to do to ensure that our country and state do not elect people who espouse these views. In particular, I want to ask you and me how much money and time are we willing to donate to these election fights to defeat them, elect better yet imperfect leaders, and stay active after the elections?”
None of us has control over what Trump, Cruz, Rubio, and the Koch Brothers, etc. are doing. You and I have control over what each of us do as individuals and families during what may be the most important election of our lifetimes. I have no right to judge what others do. I do have the right to judge myself and my actions.
I was born a native-born, English speaking, straight, able-bodied, white, male American citizen. I had nothing to do with any of these characteristics. Although I lived in poverty as a youth, I benefitted greatly from growing up in our country with good schools, great opportunities, and a life free from discrimination because of who I am. So what is my duty and responsibility this year?
I worked hard all my life and saved some money. My success was not achieved alone. I am standing on the shoulders of previous generations who sacrificed and fought to create great opportunities, pensions, Social Security, and Medicare for people like me. It is my duty to pay it forward for future generations.
Last month I wrote about a trip of a lifetime to Egypt and Ethiopia. It cost a lot of money. I ask myself: “Should I spend an equivalent amount of money on the elections and initiatives? Should I spend more? If not, why not? How many hours of free labor should I commit to the elections?” I am going to answer these questions in the privacy of my own home. I want to push myself hard on these questions. I can afford to donate more than these trips cost. Voting is not enough. I have a lot of free time. I can doorbell, phone bank, register voters, get signatures for initiatives, educate voters, and give to organizations that are building power in our communities. Much of this is hard and sometimes not fun, but it is how we win elections.
I ask each of you to do the same. Make a serious commitment and carry it out. We don’t know each other’s financial circumstances. We don’t know each other’s time commitments to family, etc. I urge each of you to seriously wrestle with the questions I raise. We all have choices to make here. If there were ever a time to step up it is now. Do we really want a president who calls Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers? A president who wants to bomb the Middle East until the sands glow? NO! The real question for each of us in these elections is: “Will we really put our money and time where we say our hearts are?”
These are tough questions. I ask myself and you, “Will we raise these questions in a kind and thoughtful way with those we are close to? If not, why not?” If we lose these elections, we will have plenty of time in the next four years to complain. Let’s win and reduce the need for venting our frustrations.