In This Political Climate, Where Do We Go From Here?

Kevin Ssonko ’20, Opinion Writer

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It goes without saying that we find ourselves in a unique political atmosphere entering the 2018 midterms. For many members of both the United States and the global community, the actions of our government and the current administration have left people puzzled, fearful, angry and oppressed. 

From the steps backward taken regarding climate change, to the tone-deaf approaches to gun reform, to the horrors of ICE and family separation, and most recently the cynical nomination and confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court our politics have been full of negativity. It is without a doubt that the current government in no way represents the interest of all Americans. This reality causes many a desire to find a means to resist. 

For many who would describe themselves as liberals this resistance for the past year has consisted of angry posting on social media, sharing articles and politically educational videos, or maybe even attending a mass demonstration like the Women’s March or the March For Our Lives. But now the midterms stand before us and many liberals are encouraging people to register to vote to change the direction and the culture of our nation. Liberals encourage everyone to vote out of the firm and understandable conviction that those we elect have the opportunity to turn this nation in a better direction. In the face of some of the biggest government crimes of our generation since the Iraq war, voting seems to be the most powerful form of resistance for liberals. 

But even as voting stands as a powerful tool to have one’s voice heard, I would like to offer another path to resistance taken from history that I believe could serve us quite well today. It is important to remember that many of the freedoms that we find under attack by the current political reality were not won at the ballot box, but in the streets. 

Whether it was the women’s movement, the abolition movement, the civil rights movement, or the labor movement, it was the context of mass demonstrations, marches and acts of civil disobedience by the people that lead to the passing of legislation. Freedom from this perspective is not protected by laws passed or writing on sheets of paper, but by the people themselves. Our generation has come to know massive acts of demonstration, but I would propose that acts of mass civil disobedience, as we have seen repeatedly throughout history for any movement for liberation, we have not seen on a mass scale since OCCUPY. I believe that when civil liberties have come under threat as they have now, the vote is important, but mass political mobilization and civil disobedience are just as important. 

I propose that we develop a deeper political understanding in these troubled times. One that understands that democracy is not just about the vote but about the people. The word democracy comes from the Greek word “Demos” which means “People”, we need to get back to the demos in democracy. 

The understanding that governments can only rule by the consent of the governed and a government cannot govern unless the people decide to let it. Howard Zinn once said “War will end when soldiers decide to stop fighting”, in the same way I believe that this nation will cease down this path of injustice, when the people decide to shut it down until it changes. 

I ask that we begin to resist on multiple fronts, yes go out and vote this November, yes attend  town halls and engage in other forms of civil participation. But also understand that when a radical change is necessary a radical action is unavoidable. 

Let us remember the lessons of the past that have made our political power possible and let us reimagine what political participation might look like. Let us not be afraid to commit ourselves to a deeper political discourse. One that doesn’t just vote, but then goes and fights for what they voted for. 

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