Making Good Trouble
“My dear friends: Your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union.” — John Lewis, 2012
There are lots of opportunities to reflect on privilege and sacrifices these days. The mere act of me safely being able to sit at the bar at my business and bang away at this keyboard is an example of the incredible privilege I have in my life. I’m sitting here writing a blog post about the importance of exercising one’s constitutional right to vote in the United States. Some people could only dream of spending their time this way.
It’s true that I’ve never really had to fight for anything in my life. I grew up in the suburbs, went to college, started working in my chosen field right out of school and have successfully used my skills to do quite well. I am grateful for all the support I’ve had along the way, being able to safely chart my own course is not to be trivialized. But, many people never get such an opportunity.
Along my journey I’ve also had plenty of experiences that have shown me exactly how different things can be for other people, and because of this I’ve always been respectful of my privilege, respectful enough to lean in and listen when important lessons about inequity and systemic bias that has stripped my outcome from the hands of others were being told. What I’ve learned has been turned into action.
From an early age I have volunteered time, and money when I ultimately had some, to the Boy Scouts, Appalachia Service Project, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross and more recently to the American Cancer Society, the New Hampshire Food Bank and a number of other organizations that provide services to people who need help with a spectrum of challenges. I have done this for the sole reason that I know how valuable it is to be able to use my abundance and privilege to help others make their own way in this world.
But, change is still needed. Inclusion in all facets of our society for all Americans is still not the norm everywhere. In some places people still hold the bias that skin color alone is something to make a decision based on. That bias is not just one of thought, it is also one of action. Our system isn’t equitable for everyone, because not everyone agrees that it should be and some vote to keep it the way it is. That’s not good enough for me.
So what do we do? Elect better leaders. Elect leaders that surround themselves with the kinds of people who make things better for everyone, not just themselves.
At this point I could veer off into a partisan diatribe about the issues and fighting for or against something, but that isn’t going to get anywhere. I’m not the arbiter of thought for everyone, and my take on the issues isn’t something I’m going to push on others. More importantly, most people won’t listen long enough right now to an obviously partisan point to result in any real, meaningful discussion. It’s clear our educational system has failed us magnificently, but that is a post for another day.
But, I can encourage participation in the process as both an act of nonviolent protest against the status quo AND an optimistic act. If enough people participate in the process (and here’s to hoping more than ever before) the desired changes will come, and maybe sooner as opposed to later.
So as John Lewis said many times we must “get into good trouble, necessary trouble.”
In his honor we are making a mead named “Making Good Trouble” with proceeds benefiting Rock The Vote, a three decade old organization with a mission to connect young people (primarily) with the voting process so that they can develop a habit of making their voice heard.
I am registered to vote. I vote. I am reasonably confident that my vote is secure. Once again, I find I have privilege, and with that privilege comes responsibility. I owe it to every one of fellow Americans to fight to ensure the security of their vote as if it were my own. If I don’t, who can I expect to be fighting for my rights when they have the station to do so?
This year COVID is having its way with our electoral process and the daily (and hourly some days) headlines about the methods by which people can vote, and not, are having a dizzying impact on people’s lives as they wrestle with casting their ballots. It shouldn’t be like this, but remember the systemic bias from above? It’s back in this paragraph.
So, what do we do?
First, know your options. What voting options does your state offer? In person, mail-in, absentee, early voting, etc. Make sure you know what the options are for your local and state elections as well. Research them with your state and local government resources. Ignore the trolls on social media.
Second, know when you must act. Elections have different deadlines for different methods.
Third, pick your method and plan your voting actions. VOTE!
Margot and I recently voted absentee for the NH primary election. We used the state website to complete an absentee ballot application, and our ballots arrived from our town clerk a few days later. This year the State of New Hampshire added COVID safety concerns to the list of disabilities allowed for absentee voting. I believe this was a smart change to ensure everyone has a method available that doesn’t require them to take excess risk during a pandemic.
The process of completing the ballot was simple, it’s the same scannable one we would see at the polls on election day. We signed the affidavit on the inner envelope and then sealed it and it into the outer envelope. We decided to return then in person to the town clerk, which Margot did. We could have mailed them back, but the post office is about the same distance from our house as the town offices, so this made sense for us. The process was simple, and included an ID check, as well as an affidavit that my ballot was returned by a lawful representative, in this case my spouse.
Overall it was a very smooth and convenient process.
When we requested absentee ballots we were able to request both the NH Primary AND NH General Election ballots in one request. This means we have ballots on the way for November, and we expect to use the same process to return them as we did this time.
I hope the example of what we did helps illustrate the important research and planning work needed to make sure you secure your vote and make sure your voice is heard.
This is our call to action. Know your options and plan how you will cast your vote. And once you have, keep an eye out here to learn more about how you can help us secure the vote for so many others so that they may safely and securely vote to ask for the changes we all want to see in our world.
ROCK THE VOTE by Making Good Trouble!