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Chuck W.

Dec 8 Civic Superpower Day?

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There are many things Americans believe that just isn’t so.   Our capacity to believe anything may be our minds greatest flaw but our minds capacity to ignore the most powerful source of human action comes in a close second.
Most adult Americans assume that we have virtually no power to change the course of our increasingly dysfunctional government, other than voting, donating to a campaign, stopping the anonymous flow of money to campaigns, or running for office ourselves. While the last option may be the best it is also the least likely to result in succeeding in getting anything don —  other than spending money and justifying a belief that our electoral system is dysfunctional. 

By Chuck Woolery, Activist, Not TV Host


There is another possibility that few Americans are aware of.  And even after being enlightened of the option, still avoid it, preferring to stick to their core beliefs that a) the system is rigged against them. b) their vote really doesn’t matter.  c)   If they have a government job, the Hatch Act prohibits them from getting involved in politics.


To a significant degree each of these are true.  A.     The system has been rigged by those with money which does increase their access to political power.  B.     Their vote once every two or four years really doesn’t make much difference given the 700,000 eligible voters in their Gerrymandered Congressional District and the quirks of the Electoral College.C.     The Hatch Act does prohibit government employees from partisan campaigning with their time.


The superpower that these US citizens ignore is the fundamental right of every US citizen to “petition” their/our government each of the 365 Days a year between elections.  
Only a tiny fraction of Americans have experienced a small group effort of meeting with their own elected official and educating him/her on an issue that they believe is important, and then remaining loving and persistent involved in making actionable requests of that elected official to report back on what action they took.  
There were two times in my life when everything I had understood about life and myself changed.  The first was witnessing the 21-hour process of my wife giving birth to our first child.   The second was in a 20-minute meeting witnessing the rebirth of a Republican Congressman.


The Congressman was Norman Shumway, serving a fourth term in Northern California’s 14th Congressional District and was scored on the extreme right of the www.govtract.us “Ideology Leadership Chart”.   One of the RESULTS groups in my US Region had been writing him for two years asking him to support child health and nutrition programs within the US Foreign aid bill.   A month earlier he had written this RESULTS Chapter a brief two paragraph letter literally saying ‘as long as I’ve been in Congress, I’ve never voted for a foreign aid bill.  As long as I’m here I never will.  Please don’t waste any more of your time asking.” They insisted on a personal meeting with him before ceasing letters and phone calls to his office.   He agreed and five volunteers from the group and myself as Regional Coordinator attended the meeting (I was only there as an observer).  


Each of the groups trained volunteer Partners gave a 2 minute “laser talk” extolling the benefits of childhood immunization, Oral Rehydration Theory, Micronutrients, and breast feeding.  Then the group’s leader asked Congressman Shumway to sign and send a letter to the “Ranking Member” (second in command) of the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the full Appropriations Committee (the Democrats were the majority in Congress then, so they had the Chairmanship of that key subcommittee). After the Congressman heard of the thousands of children’s lives that could be saved each day from a relatively small appropriation of US tax payers money he leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms and thought about it (which seemed like hours). Then he rocked forward, put his elbows on his desk and shyly said, “I can do that.”  Then he asked, “Would it be OK of I sent a letter to the Chairman as well.”   
He continued to be a supporter of this groups requests until he was not longer in office. Only he would know if his compassion for innocent children played any part in his loss but I’d bet it didn’t.


I know of other similar stories of ‘hopeless’ conservatives who were converted after loving and persistent meetings with well trained RESULTS volunteers.  A few years later as Issues Director of the Alliance for Child Survival I was paid to organize US professionals with medical and health degrees who had interest or experience in international work.  One lived in the Louisiana Congressional District held by a Republican Congressman who was Chair of that same Sub Committee of Appropriations (Republicans were now in control of the House, so they were in charge of markups that were made then).  A pediatrician convinced him to add millions of additional tax dollars to other child saving foreign aid programs if the pediatrician agreed to one requirement. The Congressman asked him not to tell anyone about it.


Loving and persistent volunteers from other organizations eventually convinced Jesse Helm’s who once claimed “HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment of homosexuals” to significantly increase foreign aid funding to treat and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS globally.  


Someone once said “Congressmen are a lot like Boy Scouts. They’re good people.  They just need a lot more adult supervision”. 


The system is rigged against the average American.  And money does influence who is elected.   But only because it’s been spent misinforming, largely uninspired and uninformed US eligible voters.  Many of whom are more interested in the immediate benefits the US government will get for them instead of smartly investing in fixing the flawed government efforts that only respond to various crisis instead of preventing them. 
Prevention efforts require deeper and longer term thinking and action regarding the flawed systems and structures that we have largely relied on to ensure our security, protect our freedoms, and improve our prosperity.   Most of our most passionate concerns are voiced in the context of a two-year election cycle instead the future of our children, and our children’s children.  

 
FACT:  There is not enough money in the world to continue only responding to the growing array of threats that Americans (and the world) faces.  It’s way past time to invest in systemic changes with a comprehensive program that rely on fundamental principles instead of ‘conservative or progressive principles’ that too often ignore them.It wasn’t voters or money that elected Trump.  It was our flawed or overconfident beliefs that government would do the right thing without ‘we the people’ being deeply and persistently involved.  We trusted them and now we blame them.   Some of us blame the media.  But the media is only a reflection of our values.   Do we value profits, comforts and distractions?  Or fundamental principles that we have pledged to our flag?   We will never have ‘liberty and justice for all’ unless we demand it of those who represent us in the House, the Senate and the White House.
The U.S. Constitution has several profound flaws but the greatest threat to it and our way of life is that we have ignored the power it offers us within it, to organize and petition our government 365 days a year.   


“If there were just 10 people in every Congressional District who really pushed on the issue of world hunger, we could literally change the world.”  Senator Paul Simon as a Congressman in the early 1980s.
In a recent news story by Jake Johnson, a staff writer at CommonDreams.org wrote “One of the best parts of Ocasio-Cortez’s arrival in D.C. as a new leader is that she notices, and is revolted by, the corrupt, corporatist rituals that are so embedded in D.C. culture that most politicians and journalists barely notice them.”   


 ‘Lobbyists Are Here. Goldman Sachs Is Here. Where’s Labor? Activists?’ Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez Pull Back Curtain on Corporate-Sponsored Freshman Orientation

 


What are you going to do about it?   The future is in our hands.  “We the people”. 

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