As was true when I sent out Wisdom’s Cry in 1992, this is an election year, and while the focus of most people’s frustration, anger, desire for change, etc. is the federal government, we can do much more at the local and state level. Here’s what I wrote then about getting involved [to go straight to a list of practical things you can do, scroll to the bottom]:
IT’S A POLITICAL YEAR
The Year of Living Publicly is upon us, the year during which those who are leaders and those hoping to be leaders discuss all the issues they should have been discussing all along and will avoid discussing even now if the populace will let them.
Remember 1988 when the presidential campaign became a referendum on whether the American flag should be honored or whether furloughed black men should be allowed to rape?
We’v entered another political year, and most of us will be tempted to either ignore the political process altogether or focus on the public and private lives of those few men running for the presidency [2018 update: Congress]. We’ll gather our news from newspapers [2018 update: the internet] or those 17-second sound bites we see on the nightly news. And at the end of the process we’ll be disappointed once again, feeling frustrated by our lack of control and a bit less willing to care about politics again.
But this is an important year! Each of us needs to be involved. Not at the national level, but at the local level. For while most of the media discussion centers on the latest national clash between the Big Egos, the political races that will most directly affect our lives are quietly taking place in our neighborhoods.
In Washington State, for example, we will be voting this year for senator, governor, lieutenant governor, congressional representatives, all state representatives and many state senators. A full 20% of the people in this year’s state legislature are seeking higher office, which means that their current positions will be left vacant, waiting to be filled by those whose views we endorse…or those whose views we don’t.
In addition, several initiatives will be on the ballot including two that deal with campaign spending reform.
So what, you say? So get involved! Many of us feel left out of the political process, unable to affect the decisions of government leaders. But what we don’t realize is that we can have an effect on the process and ultimately on the decisions of leaders.
When you do more than just cast your ballot, when you attend public meetings or work on a political campaign, you increase your effect on process and decisions a thousand-fold. Yes, a thousand-fold. Whether we like to believe it or not, a small number of people from our neighborhoods are making the decisions that affect us all and we can each be a part of that group.
Too often it’s easier to stay home and concentrate on your own concerns. Too often it’s easier to gripe about the direction society is going, about the lack of quality leaders, about he poor information on which decisions are made.
Too often it’s easier to gripe, period, than to do anything.
So how does one become involved when she has never been involved before? On this page [see below] you’ll find a list of things you can do right now, today. Be careful, though. Once you become involved, you can’t sit back and refuse to do anything. And you’ll no longer be able to gripe about having no part in the process!
THINGS TO DO IN 1992 [or 2018]:
- Read your local community paper, especially the Community Calendar section, and attend some of the meetings announced.
- Join your local community council and begin attending its meetings. These are open to everyone and are the best place to find out what’s happening in your community.
- Talk to any neighbors or friends you know are already involved and ask them to take you to events or meetings they attend.
- Call the county office of whichever political party you feel closest to and ask if there are ways you can help them.
- If you don’t want to work with apolitical party, call the League of Women Voters or similar groups involved in politics.
- Pick a local candidate and volunteer for his or her campaign. this is the best way to hep out your views into office. An added benefit is that you will meet others who share your views and desire to be involved.
- Arrange a candidate’s appearance before groups you already participate in. Church and civic groups are always looking for speakers, and an appearance by your candidate fosters discussion of your ideas.
- Write to your local newspapers about issues you think should be part of the political discussion. Newspaper will accept most letters that contain concise ideas clearly stated and the Letters section is the most widely read page of any publication.
- Talk about your views to anyone who will listen. You’ll be amazed at how many of your friends share your concerns and are willing to be involved with you.
© Michael N. McGregor 1992