These days, reading or viewing the news for me is disorienting. I wonder and question. Is this really my country? The land where human rights and civil rights are guaranteed? Where truth and freedom of press are honored and respected? Where a statue in a harbor welcomes “poor and huddled masses”? To many, it seems that the events of the past few weeks threaten to dismantle the basic tenets of our country, our democracy.
There have been attempts to be selective on immigration with bans that appear to be based on religion and country of origin rather than on equitable and/or humanitarian designations. It seems unreasonable to build “walls” to ward off illegal immigrants at incredibly high costs yet continue efforts to discard and dismantle affordable health programs precisely because of their high costs. Intelligence reports of Russian intervention in the election process have been dismissed as “fake” while unfounded reports of illegal or fraudulent voting that might have affected the “popular vote” could warrant pricy investigation. (And we should note-this “voting fraud” investigation could lead to more stringent voter registration laws, efforts which most likely would continue to disenfranchise minority groups and the poor.)
In addition, there are serious concerns about freedom of the press. In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent commented, “Trump is trying to discredit not only the press’ critical role in our democracy, but also the idea of ‘factual reality itself’.’” As such there are frequent statements criticizing the media for “fake news” including an admonishment that, “The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while.” There is even the newlyminted offering of “alternative facts”.
Are these issues of major concern? Most assuredly. So where do we go from here? We have had huge turnouts for the Women’s March in D.C., in New York, here in Albany and even in other parts of the world. The League participated in this historical event. But as David Axelrod, a close Obama advisor, stated after observing the D.C. March, “This is an impressive display today. But if it isn’t channeled into organizing in a focused way, then it is cathartic but not in the long run meaningful. That’s the challenge for the progressive community.”
That is our challenge – to continue to turn our concerns into meaningful efforts. The LWVUS offers one option. Go to http://lwv.org/blog/thanks-marching-here’s-what’snext. It also means writing to our government representatives with our concerns and encouraging them in their efforts. It means joining in rallies to demonstrate for support of human rights. It means supporting local efforts to be sanctuary cities, even with the threat of federal funding shut-downs. It means standing up for our principles in every which way we can even in the face of daunting odds. And let us not forget, as former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” That means attending to local issues of importance at meetings for the county legislature, town or city boards, and even school board meetings. From national to state to local, let’s really work to make our individual and collective efforts meaningful.