Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hundreds of Obama votes for Ohio this week!

There is something inherently powerful about voting, something that makes you feel a part of a thing greater than yourself. When I vote, I leave the polling place feeling as if I had just done something to change the world. Even better than voting yourself, however, is empowering others to vote.

I have been working for the organization Vote Today Ohio over Ohio's Golden Week. One of our tasks is to give power to those who don't have it, who exist beyond the margins of our society, the tired, the poor, the huddled masses for whom the promise of America is a broken dream. Our society exists on the preface that all people are created equal, but they aren't in today's America, no matter how much we pretend it to be true, no matter how often we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, no matter how large is the flag pin that sits on our lapels. The truth is that many Americans are born into the vicious cycle of poverty from which few escape. Too often we forget this poverty exists until some disaster like Katrina reminds us that parts of these so called "United" States resemble the conditions in third world countries. In the aftermath of Katrina, we asked ourselves, "how could this happen in our country?" Katrina was a wake up call, but a lot of us continued to hit snooze.

In our second slumber, we dreamt of picket fences, green yards, nice cars, and college tuition for our children, but the conscious reality outside our homes continued to move towards turmoil. Sure, the phrase "housing bubble" was tossed around water coolers and at happy hour tables, but we as a nation did not take it as seriously as we should have. Many pundits called it hysteria, paranoia, scare tactics, but now we sit on the brink of economic collapse, having watched bank after bank fail and foreign countries grab greater shares of the American pie. People are losing their jobs and their homes. We've woken from our American dream to discover the nightmare of reality. We want to go back to sleep, only the noise is too loud and the lights too bright for any return to slumber.

And so we see reality. We see tent cities on American soil, people living in FEMA trailers, kids not able to get operations because insurance companies declare preexisting conditions, a woman attempting suicide because she may lose her home. We see small business owners closing shop and others worrying about having to do so. We see Americans unable to get to work because they can't afford the gas to get them there. We can't wake up from this nightmare, because this is real, and as more of us lose pieces of our lives, the realization that we need to fundamentally change the way we live has finally reached Main Street.

Empowerment. We may feel helpless as the bad news runs through the ticker like water under a bridge to nowhere, but this is America, a country by the people, for the people. It's ours. America does not belong to a CEO any more than it does to a homeless man on a street corner. People have tried to take more than their fair shares and look where it has gotten us. Greed doesn't work, people. Unbridled corporatism doesn't work. When we stomp on our fellow Americans to get a bigger piece of the pie, America breaks down.

But we are not doomed. Corruption and greed are not so firmly entrenched in our country that it is too late to do something about it. We have this little thing called the Constitution of the United States of America that has withstood countless attempts to view it as a thing of brittle paper rather than a human rights institution. This is a document that was passed around the gulags of the Soviet Union at the risk of death for having it, giving hope to those who suffered under the tyranny of Stalin and his communist successors. This great document gives us all of the dignity of human rights so many in the world do not enjoy. This is our contract with each other that we will respect each other and share the resources of this land. Here we stand at another crossroads on this historical human journey on a road called America, and I suspect that because of this great contract, the turmoil in which we find ourselves at this stage of our journey, too, shall pass.

Yet we must honor that contract if we are to overcome the obstacles that currently stand before us. All Americans must have the same opportunity to participate in the promise of America. And so I honor my commitment to the contract as stated by the passport and birth certificate I hold, that I will do what is in my power to right the wrongs bestowed upon our country by those who feel they deserve more than others, by those who saw no wrong in disgracing our electoral system in the past few elections, by those whose heinous actions have lowered our standing in the world. This week I have helped transport voters to the polls in support of a candidate who represents a return to the promise of America. My organization has transported hundreds of disenfranchised and marginalized voters to the ballot boxes, people who haven't voted in years - or ever - or whose ballots were cast provisionally and most likely never counted during the last presidential election because of the color of their skin or their rank in the American social system.

We hear the criticism that we are only transporting them because they will cast votes for our candidate, as if it is unfathomable that a person can actually care for a total stranger, that we actually believe that we are all created equal, those immortal words enshrined on that brittle piece of paper. Well, believe it, folks. We actually do care. It's called justice. (For more information, you can read about it in a little book called the Bible if that's your cup of tea, but you don't have to be a Christian to have a profound respect for the underlying philosophy of that book.)

We have transported hundreds of voters in Ohio to the polls this week - more than 150 yesterday in Cincinnati alone, and I hope to have the opportunity to continue to do so until Election Day. I feel like this is the most important thing I have done in my brief three decades of existence. I find myself believing in the promise of America again.

Can we get America back?

Yes we can!

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