After a heartsick day yesterday, and deep sleep last night, I am feeling surprisingly good this morning. The thought I ended with last night - that only a fifth of America voted for George Bush, and that we must work to reach those who don't vote at all, to help them claim their power - is the thought that drives me today. Here are a few other thoughts and questions that will be driving my work these next four years:
* Despite record turnout among both Democrats and Republicans, far too many Americans – half of all adults, in fact - still aren't active participants in our democracy. How can we empower them to become part of public life? Realistically, we don't start by urging them to vote, but by helping them become more involved in their communities. Public engagement may not be an automatic priority of people who are struggling just to live, but a nonpartisan organization I write for and admire greatly, the Study Circles Resource Center, is all about this sort of work. Here's SCRC's latest newsletter, which addreses this very theme, and here's a story about how economically strained folks across Kansas City, KS, claimed their power and made positive change in their neighborhoods. I suspect more of them voted this year than in 2000, too.
* America is not a theocracy. Most people say they believe in God, but they do not want state-sanctioned religion. On Sunday, my minister urged us to vote but advocated for nothing other than passage of the local library bond. You can be sure that was not the case at evangelical and fundamentalist churches across our country. How can those of us outside evangelical Christianity create change and resist a religious takeover of our nation when we play by the rules of church-state separation and the religious right does not?
* Freedom of speech and assembly were huge casualties of the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign, which was marked by loyalty oaths and removal of even silently dissenting people from campaign events. How can we make sure civil liberties don't further erode during the second Bush term?
* If Bush really wants to reach out to those who didn't vote for him, he must do the following: have more press conferences; listen to scientists; forget more tax cuts and put the money into social services; realize that to many of us, moral values don't mean opposition to abortion and gay marriage but anger over an illegitimate war and growing social inequality; stop eroding civil liberties; and - perhaps most crucial of all - open his mind. If his Christian beliefs and political agenda are solid, they can withstand dialogue and challenge. Do you think he's up for doing any of those things?
Many friends have said they now feel left out of America, like this isn't our country anymore. My reply is: This sure as hell is still our country. I'm offended by what George W. Bush and Zell Miller and Paul Wolfowitz and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have done to it, and I will not sit silently nor idly by as they continue to divide us and destroy what our ancestors worked and fought for.