Everybody remember those two words? They were on the tip of everyone’s tongues back in the fall of 2008 when Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. Now, nearly three years later, we’ve fallen back to the more traditional political catch phrases, like scare and blame.
What has happened over the past few years that we seem to have given up so easily? I will admit, I’ve had my frustrations with President Obama. I was disappointed when he allowed Congress to prevent the closure of the torture facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I was furious when he defended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in federal court, although Congress had already passed the pseudo-repeal. I’m still disappointed that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act hasn’t made it to Congress, and this debt deal certainly doesn’t rate on my list of all-time favorite legislative actions.
What I’m really disappointed with the most over the past three years, though, is myself and by extension, the rest of America’s electorate. What we have failed to realize, myself included, is that the change that needs to occur in our communities, in Utah and in this country are way too big to be the responsibility of any one person – even a person with the full power of the presidency behind them.
Our government, by its very nature, is reactionary. It responds to the will of the people, albeit sometimes that reaction is very slow. When there is a group of people making a great deal of noise, there will be elected officials paying attention to that noise, and it will impact the political process for better or for worse. The problem that we face, as proponents (and/or agents) of change, is that we aren’t making the right kind of noise at a high enough volume to overcome both the institutional lack of momentum and the pressure from the hyper-conservative elements that are busy making their noise as well.
If we wish to truly make change within our government, then we have to start by making change within ourselves. Our elected leaders reflect our own flaws and weaknesses, they come from us and they are elected by us. If we demand better from them, we must be prepared to give better of ourselves.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve stood on the sidelines and cast stones at policy choices, without offering viable alternatives. But the time for that kind of political posturing has passed us by. It is time that we come together, work together, and create real and lasting solutions.
Do you want full equality for all citizens under law? That’s not going to happen if we split into various LGBTQ elements, or if we ignore equality among races, creeds, religions or even genders. If we want equality, we will need to build a true community of committed citizens ready to work for equality for all, in all circumstances. We will need to believe in that equality and practice it among and for ourselves, then our “leaders” will have no choice but to follow.
One of the most frustrating things that I’ve seen over the past three years is how quickly our progressive elements turn on each other, scrambling to make one element’s issue more important than another. If we are to overcome the obstacles created by inherent conservatism and resistance, then we will need to work together, we will need to accept that while we do have differences, the end goal is what is important and we can put aside the differences to accomplish our ends. We need to embrace our diversity, for in it we find our strengths.
It’s easy to blame the president, or Congress, or anyone else for the problems we face in our society today. It’s certainly easier than shouldering the burden ourselves. Unfortunately folks, until we accept our responsibility and commit to working toward solutions, we are only in for more of the same. It is long past time that we demand better of our elected officials, but it is also long past time that we put aside our anger, our hatred and our vitriol, and start giving better of ourselves.