Political Action: It’s Personal.

Imbolc                                              New Moon (Wild)

Politics.   Sigh. I feel bad for all those bright young things who worked their butts off for Obama and instead ended up with a President.  To be political is to be cynical.  All of us who move outside the coziness of home and into the political fray will confront a sobering realization:  change is slow and change that isn’t usually wrecks something in the process.

Not only that.  The change that is possible at any given time has little to do with the righteousness of the cause, the clarity of the facts and the obvious path to a particular solution.  The reason?  All things happen within a context and nothing, let me repeat that, nothing transcends context.  Consider early efforts against Jim Crow legislation.  Look at the long protest against the Vietnam War.  The twisty, tortuous path of health care reform.  Political financing.  Matters related to a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

Climate change is the issue of the current moment that I would nominate as most likely to transcend.  Has it?  No.  Lobbyists muddy the water with false research.  A few loud conservative voices make it seem as if the questions are still in debate, when they are not.  The long curve of climate change effects makes change now difficult.  Not to mention health care reform is in the pipeline. We may fail on climate change because this mix of factors makes us dither until New York is underwater and the south a burnt over district.  Time will tell.

Why not give up then?  If change is unpredictable, then why give any effort at all?  So many people drop out because their first taste of politics or their first taste of issue advocacy ends in failure.  Or, worse, ends in a success that does not produce the results imagined.

Here are three reasons for staying on the ancientrail of political life.

1. Change does happen. It may be slow and off point for a long time, but we no longer have slaves or Jim Crow laws.  A woman’s right to choose an abortion has remained steady in spite of considerable agitation.  Gays and lesbian can be married in several states now.  The Vietnam war is over.  If many activists had not stayed engaged, then none of these long term victories would have happened.

2. To give up gives the victory away. If Martin Luther King and his generation of civil rights workers had decided the work had cost them too much, or the probability of success was too low, we would not have an African-American president or burgeoning African-American middle class.  If the folks in the Sierra Club Northstar Chapter had backed off in their support of the Boundary Waters because the opposition was too strong, there would be motorboats now where thousands, hundreds of thousands canoe quietly.

3. If not you, who?  If not now, when? Politics is personal.  We have, in a democratic society, a gift of political engagement that matters.  It matters, though, only if you engage.  This is a question of authenticity, of being the person you are and can be.  At this level success or failure does not matter.  What does matter is that you listened to  your own heart; and when it said, here I stand, you stood up.

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