Just One Person, What Can I Do?
I admit to careening all around, from the sky is falling, to spitting-bullets-mad, to a coma-inducing malaise, and for brief moments, surrender — all in one day. Is it cocktail hour yet?
Being retired, and unless delighting on an ever-changing travel bucket list, or a current book project, I have too much time on my hands. A daily routine is coffee, scanning the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times Crossword, breakfast, LA Fitness, shower, nap, cocktail hour and cooking dinner. This leaves too much time to cruise and absorb favorite bookmarked sites.
I have to. Too much is at stake. I have a responsibility to stay informed, and to ferret out the fake, the trivial, or the tripe. We all have this responsibility.
But, there is this — I am just one person. What can I do? There is a song written and performed by an organization most are too young to have heard of called Up with People. I am a proud founding member of that organization in the late 1960s. This song was written in 2010, entitled “One Person (What Can I Do?)*.
The chorus says:
Woah. what can I do?
I’m just one person — one person.
Woah, what can I do?
I’m just one person, same as you.
My last blog was entitled Not Slashing My Wrists, Yet.
If I am not talking back at the TV, succumbing to a malaise coma or surrendering, what can I do?
More on that later.
I am now hearing, even if only on MSNBC, hosts and guests speaking to the most pressing issue of the day: saving democracy.
I am all in.
My message to those passionate about Black Lives Matter, MeToo, LGBTQ, abortion rights, climate change, BIPOC, and others — do not give up the fight. But if we do not save democracy, you can kiss your passion issues goodbye. We need to coalesce and link arms for the next few years, to live to keep fighting the good fight, and to keep getting in “good trouble.”
My passion is BIPOC. I helped launch a Facebook page called Rise Up. It had a narrow audience, alumni of Up with People. We have over 300 Rise Up members. In the year following the George Floyd murder, we held twelve zoom sessions and five webinars with outside guests. Our goal was to advance BIPOC equality and equity. We educated ourselves and shared information and history we did not know. We left action steps up to each individual member.
Max Boot, life-long Republican and foreign policy wonk, recently said, “I am not a Democrat.” But he will be voting Democrat up and down the ticket in the foreseeable future to, “save democracy.” Short take on his statement — democracy is on the ballot.
I have been amazed and heartened by stalwart Republicans like Bill Kristol and syndicated columnist Jennifer Rubin seeing the danger in the Trumpistas for the United States. I still wonder where they were when the Tea Party basically took over the Republican Party in 2010. This did not just begin with Trump. See three of my previous blogs: How We Got Here — Newt Gingrich Edition, How We Got Here — Christian Church Edition, and How We Got Here — Media Edition. A brief Tea Party recap: the Koch Brothers (dark money) funded them, and the MSM (mainstream media) put them on the front page and lead stories.
Regardless, we welcome you. They, like me, would like to see us return to where the two parties argued courteously, sometimes stridently, about policy.
Republican Speaker John Boehner fled the House speakership in 2015 because of the Tea Party. Republican Speaker Tim Ryan fled the House speakership in 2018 because of Trump and the Trumpistas. If those two staunch Republicans were cowed and chased away, Houston, we have a problem.
Mitch McConnell is another matter. Mitch is about power. Mitch cannot spell principles. Mitch is the polar opposite of mensch — coldhearted, as well.
I recently heard a well-regarded MSNBC guest ask if we, as a people, possess enough virtue to be self-governing? Until now, that thought never crossed my mind. The default on that is totalitarianism.
What to do? I have been a regular harasser of CNN, and elected officials, mostly at the national level. I sent at least a dozen emails to the Obama White House over the ACA, especially when they threw in the towel on the public option. I have probably emailed Biden and Harris a dozen times. This is easy — just Google: Contact the White House. No, I do not expect them to follow my advice. But I am a voice, even if only one voice.
I regularly email United States Senators. Members of the House are more of a challenge. A while back, both Democrats and Republicans stopped accepting emails from outside their districts. You have to call and fight through the maze. You can email Speaker Pelosi, as I have often done.
I have the means to donate. I pick my targets. If you do donate, you will be swamped by emails from other candidates within days. They sell the lists. Those fundraisers take a cut of the donations. Most hired fundraisers do not give a rat’s ass about the candidate. You just have to unsubscribe once they start. They will honor that, for a while. Persist.
They say, act local. I need to do more of this. But, I live in California and while there are some tight races in the county where I live, the serious heavy lifting needs to be done elsewhere. In 2004, I flew to Madison, WI to support Kerry. In 2012, my wife and I drove to Las Vegas to support Obama.
For 2022 and 2024, I will be traveling to volunteer, probably in Arizona — first to help re-elect Mark Kelly in 2022, and second to defeat Senator Sinema in 2024. I do not know what she is, but she is not a Democrat. A common retort to the question of whether she wanted to be president someday — “I’m overqualified.” This flippant, snarky response is akin to her showy, flippant down vote in the well of the Senate over the minimum wage bill. See spitting-bullets-mad emoticon.
Who says you cannot start a political bloc? Who says you cannot start your own Facebook group? The Facebook thing is not hard to do. And since it will be private — set up the criteria for membership and then approve all requests to join — Facebook cannot put ads on it. It can be your space.
Here’s a twist on a current offensive slogan — title your Facebook page “Stop the Steal of Democracy.”
Democrats need to learn and learn fast. If Republicans control the state, they control the Congressional districts. Think gerrymandering. They can gerrymander Democrats out of office. So fight like hell to win state legislatures. I get it that is not as sexy as presidential elections. Think and act local.
Republican candidates for school boards are now being banked by dark money. Dark money? Let me guess — ultra-rich.
An aside, but not irrelevant — in 1952, you know that glorious decade so many look back on fondly, and wish to return to — over 2,700,000 workers went on strike that year. In 2020, 27,000 went on strike — one percent of 1952 strikers. Refer back to my previous blog, Not Slashing My Wrists, Yet, and my citing of the recent Rand study. Even Trumpistas are getting their pockets picked. But if the uber-rich and corporations keep telling you it is the “other,” just keep opening your wallet. You have the wrong enemy. The Uber-rich and corporations are the other.
Oh, and banks are reporting record profits. Oh, and Republicans are reporting record donations for the 2022 House races. Dark money.
Just to add one more ominous Steve Bannon quote to the previous blog. Bannon said last recently that if we put Trump back in, “we rule for 100 years.” Ponder that. Notice he said rule, not govern.
It only takes a few to terrorize a school board or city council. It takes a community’s silence to allow it. A community can push back. Lead the pushback. Attend local school board and city council meetings. Support righteous action. Speak out. Do not be intimidated. Do not shout. Do not protest outside a person’s private residence. Be like Martin Luther King. But persist.
I do not recall hearing Malala Yousafzai or Greta Thumberg raise their voices.
Oh, and embolden more women.
Bottom line, on Election Day, we have to turnout and out-vote them.
The last part of the song I mentioned earlier says:
We’ve seen walls tumble down, seen chains fall as freedom sings.
Because one person stood and answered the question:
What can I do? What can I do?
If you choose to not stand, choose to not do anything — bend over, grab your ankles and kiss democracy goodbye.
*This song was written by Paul Colwell, the most prolific songwriter in the 50-year expanse of Up with People. He wrote this song in 2010 at age 75. He still writes today. I chronicled his writing journey in a book: The Poems of Paul Colwell.