In less than two years, one man has changed the course of history. How can one person dismantle a country? Because people let it happen. Because we do not believe in the voting power that we have. There’s a saying: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” This is a seriously great saying, and I would like to offer an additional one: “Friends don’t let friends not vote.” I am not recommending self-righteous bullying, but certainly we can work earnestly to motivate folks to register and vote. I just read that approximately 40 percent of eligible Americans did not vote in the 2016 presidential election. And for all the flaws in our system of voting, the facts are clear: Every vote does make a difference. How do you think Barack Obama became our president? Voting works—if ya work it!
It is quite clear where my politics lie. However, I feel that our country must have a two-party system, and since there are those who align themselves with the Republican platform, I have to say this: Please demand more of your party. Please look to candidates who believe in our constitution, who believe in reaching across the aisle and working to produce effective compromises, who have a moral compass. Certainly, there are those politicians who realize pro-business doesn’t require greed to prosper, that productivity is better attained with fair wages and benefits, that manufacturing and agriculture needn’t pollute or cause cruelty. Surely, there are many horrified conservatives out there who are having “buyer’s remorse” over the current administration, and I’m waiting for them to rise up and take back their party. This isn’t the Republican Party my parents would vote for today. If they were alive, they would be ashamed and angry—just as angry as I am with the progressives who sat out the last election, who chose not to vote, not to participate and to be a part of our democracy. Use it or lose it.
Why do we wring our hands in despair and say, “There is nothing we can do/the cards are stacked against us/it won’t make a difference/voting is rigged/you can’t fight city hall”? Come on, why do we think we’re so worthless that our presence in our community is meaningless? We all seem willing to accept the power and impact of an act of violence, but not an act of courage. Oh sure, there are many news stories about good Samaritans, but do we feel a moral imperative to step in and stop the daily assaults upon nature and neighbors? Why doesn’t that “Making a Difference” segment on the evening news motivate and empower? No, you don’t need to tackle a bank robber, but you see crimes and acts of danger every day—call for help; don’t wait for someone else to “maybe” do something. See a little dog running loose and confused—stop and corral it (you do not have to adopt, just help Fido find his people). See the trash littering your sidewalk—bend over and pick it up.
Litter is a great way to illustrate how a small action makes a difference. You might think, “What difference does picking up that one piece of trash make?” It makes the same difference that the thoughtless placement of the litter made (think: the flip side of a bad action). That piece of trash empowers more people to drop more trash. All it took was one quick and easy release of the initial litter from someone’s hands—but you have the power to undo that, to remove it and create a space free of filth. Pick up five pieces of trash a day, and you annually remove 1,825 bits of rubbish—rubbish that clogs our storm drains and clogs our self-esteem. Taking control of your community’s litter problem is easy and doesn’t require money, clout, strength, or even much time or effort. So there. This is only one of many ways we can feel empowered.
Going back to more serious crimes or situations of peril where you can make a difference: Don’t turn a blind eye when someone is in distress. While being cautious for your own safety, you can still assist a motorist stranded with that flat tire—even if all you can offer is the back-up of your flashing lights and to see if they have help on the way. Or if you’re able, help change that tire. See a crime going down, call the authorities—no you are not a snitch, you are perhaps saving a life. Recently, my husband drove past a man lying on the ground—easy to assume just a drunk sleeping it off—but he turned around, drove back, and realized this man had been attacked. He called 911, and the EMTs arrived possibly in time to save his life. How long had the victim lay there bleeding out as many motorists and bikers passed by? Answer: hours, most likely.
Do you want to be proactive and actually belong to your community, your country? Then do something. Take a new New Orleanian to lunch and then to register to vote (nola.gov/registrar/general-information). Volunteer at the SPCA or with any number of animal rescue groups. Visit a nursing home. Donate time or money to support candidates in the upcoming 2018 primary, think outside the box, and look to promote candidates in other states (social media can be a useful tool). Here are some statistics for you: The average American creates 4.39 pounds of trash daily; that’s as much as 56 tons of trash per year. So, recycle, reuse, and compost everything you possibly can while considering a reduction in your consumption. When in consumer mode, shop local and support small businesses, read the labels, and use your wallet to support humane and eco-friendly products and companies.
In short, just give a damn.