Completely non-knitting content. Political statements follow.
I don't talk politics here, because this blog is about knitting, which I think of as something that brings us together, not something that pulls us apart. We have enough stuff pulling up apart, and I think it is a better use of my time to try to build connections, rather than to sever them. But I do have very strong political opinions, and as we approach another election, after eight years that I don't think anyone can honestly say have been good, I believe with all my heart that it is critical to our survival as a nation that we all commit ourselves to being informed and involved in the political process. So I'm going to use this blog, for today only, to say some things that I believe need saying.
Although I consider myself to be moderate in my beliefs (don't we all?), it would be fair to say that most people would characterize me as pretty far left. I believe in civil rights and human rights. I believe that the only criterion for entitlement to these rights is being human, regardless of race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, political affiliation, wealth, education, or any other characteristic people try to use to separate us into "us" and "them". I believe that women have the right to control their own bodies, because there is no one else who has a greater right to do so, and that, while this may sometimes lead to decisions that sadden us, it is better than all other alternatives. I believe that everyone has the right to marry and to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage, and that no one else's marriage has any bearing on my own. I believe that all children should have access to decent food, clothing, housing, medical care, and education, regardless of the choices their parents may have made. I believe that adults should be held accountable for their own choices, but that it is to our benefit as a society to give a hand up to anyone who wants to make positive changes in his or her life. I believe that we have an obligation to protect our environment, even at the expense of our convenience, because anything else would be foolish and self-destructive. Even animals know better than to shit where they sleep. I believe that freedom is not an entitlement, but a privilege for which we must constantly struggle, usually against our own government. I believe that fear is a weapon used by government to control and subjugate people. I believe that power corrupts and that we, the people, must exercise constant vigilance to prevent those in power from using that power for their own ends. And I believe that we have failed in this basic duty as citizens.
I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican and never have been. I prefer to think for myself. I belong to no church or organized religion, for the same reason. I honestly do not care where you are on the political spectrum, as long as you are informed and have made a reasoned decision about your beliefs, values, and priorities. Intelligent minds can differ, and often do. If you support the Republican platform, that's fine, as long as you know what it is and genuinely believe in the positions it represents. Ditto the Democratic platform. I much prefer informed dissent to ignorant agreement. Nothing outrages me more than when someone blindly follows a doctrine simply because someone else (family, church, neighbors, whatever) does, especially if that person is uninformed about what it is he or she is supporting. Unfortunately, I find that most people I know fall into this category.
I am a card-carrying member of both the ACLU and Amnesty International, not because I agree with everything they do (I don't), but because I believe that they are necessary checks on the powers that be. I support them financially because the government uses my tax dollars--and yours--to support the activities they oppose. I am a big believer in checks and balances. Governing a democracy was never meant to be easy; it is the complexity that is supposed to keep it from swinging too far to either extreme. Dictatorship is easy, but that doesn't make it right. In recent years, sweeping changes to our laws, allowed by a congress that has abdicated its responsibility, have largely done away with these critical checks and balances, and we are seeing the results now.
What are the results? The evisceration of civil rights, a broken election system, a government run by corporate America, a corporate-controlled media, irreversible environmental damage, unprecedented conflict with other countries (including our allies), economic free-fall, a super-elite that has sucked the money out of the system while sending our jobs abroad, and a middle-class that is being crushed beneath the weight of unemployment, rampant foreclosures, high fuel costs, unmanageable debt, and rising inflation. Let me know if I've forgotten any.
I'm not writing this to add to the gloom and doom atmosphere that seems to pervade everything these days. I'm writing it as a plea to my fellow Americans. The election is coming. Everywhere, everyone will be telling you to get out and vote. By all means, do. But first, stop and think. Let go of your fear and think about what you really believe, not what other people tell you to believe. Think about what is important to you. Think about what will make this a better country. And then, be informed. If you know, in the privacy of your own heart, that you're not sure about what's going on, take the time to get informed before you vote. Read. Not just the newspapers, or your news station of choice. Read online. Seek out sources. Be open to opposing points of view. It won't hurt any of us to listen to things we don't like. We are all in this together, so it makes sense to understand those who disagree with us, doesn't it?
We who live in the United States are engaged in the greatest political experiment of all time, but it's not a guaranteed success. It is easy to disregard the possibility of failure, to go on with our lives with the blithe assumption that things will go on as they always have. But we must never forget that this country has been around less than 250 years. By historical standards, we're barely toddling around the living room, despite all that we've accomplished in that time. The Roman Empire lasted 2000 years before it fell, but fall it did. Our survival as a nation requires that we, the people, be informed, involved, and ever-vigilant. Please, do your part.