Will Wrk 4 Democracy
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I?
You've turned to this page expecting to read about food and, being a week after the election, most likely some distraction from commentary.
I'm about to disappoint you. For on Nov. 3, as I write my monthly column, I keep turning away from the subject of food — indeed I've barely eaten a decent meal in the past two weeks and don't remember stepping inside a restaurant. My nourishment has been focused on the soul. My sustenance has been citizenship.
Despite licking proud warrior wounds and my inner cynic threatening a sleeper hold, I am trying to embrace my conviction that all experience is perfect and that opportunity lies in the shadowy gaps.
I began the summer motivated by anger at the grasping, clinging narcissism that has been incubating in a powerful, fundamentalist Petrie dish for the past 20 years while liberal idealists self-medicated their anxiety and slipped into a semi-coma, leaving democracy a casualty of disenchantment and providing the soil for growing imperialism.
I joined up.
I wanted to unseat what I perceived to be the cause of our problems: the moral arrogant further sickened by an insidious mad cowboy disease. I got busy for the blue candidate. I co-hosted a house party, canvassed neighborhoods, phone-banked, yard-signed and rallied. I was invigorated by the electricity and hungry for the communal sense of purpose. I ate dissent for breakfast.
While not yet fully accepting blue guy, I knew red guy embodied much of what I detested: appeasing corporate power, contradictory attempts to preserve marriage while denying a whole faction of our society the right to marry (someone said, "They should have the right to be as miserable as the rest of us") and an intense focus on defending the life of a fetus while allowing thousands of American and Iraqi kids to die for a lie.
Polarization, division and disconnection were the words written and echoed. But the more one-on-one conversations I had as I moved door-to-door, the more I realized those words intentionally kept us from discovering how much we have in common.
No, I'm not thrilled that the frat boy from Crawford is driving the bus again. And I've given up my attachment to the belief that those who voted for him are dazed and deficient. But rather than live with despair, I believe the failure to resolve the crises as I see them is an opportunity to build a framework of meaning and purpose, to amplify the conversation of community instead of institution, community that uplifts and upholds a fabric of action, vision and accountability.
The ideals of democracy and representation made a difference in this election and no matter if we partied with the red, blue, green, pissed-off or punked, the ability to transcend and transform lies in the value of taking chances and not being afraid to fail; in the concept that public participation is the essence of democratic citizenship; and the acknowledgement of its capacity to feed our souls and nourish our lives.