By Elayne Clift
Editor’s note: Elayne Clift, who writes about women, culture and social issues from Saxtons River.
It is now more than two months into the new year, and it’s likely that resolutions we made in earnest then have already been ignored. That’s OK. We can forgive ourselves for being overly resolute. These are hard times that ask much of us, and positive changes we seek in our personal lives are difficult to launch or sustain at the best of times.
But there are larger resolutions I wish we could have made collectively that are big, urgent and difficult. They have the potential to afford us hope for the future. However, given that about a third of Americans don’t want to participate in collective resolution, the steps that need to be taken if we are to move forward in positive ways are little more that wishes right now. That’s sad, and worrying, because the desperate hope for significant change needed to keep our country free and safe call for “courage enough to own (our) faults, (and) resolution enough to mend them,” as Benjamin Franklin once said.
We are living in a time when circumstances grounded in the principles of our country’s founders are slipping away. We must be sure that doesn’t happen before the lives of future generations are vastly compromised by our failure to act.
The refusal of every Republican in the Senate to pass two critical voting rights bills was a colossal failure to act. Designed to ensure that every eligible American can exercise their right to vote free of restraint or intimidation — the core of true democracy — it was an extraordinary moral failure as well as a legislative one. That right is now threatened in 19 states that have crafted bills aimed at limiting voting among groups of people that local and state leaders see as impeding their desired outcome. Those state bills are grounded in racism and white supremacy, much as Jim Crow laws were.
Further repression of votes is embedded in the filibuster that Senate Republicans cling to in order to hold onto their power while refusing to appear on the floor of the Senate to argue their case for a 60-vote majority. But just watch how ready to kill the filibuster they will be should they gain the majority in 2023. The travesty of voter suppression in all its forms promulgated by elected officials to the United States Congress is but a harbinger of things to come if we do not correct course.
Another course correction that needs to take place is a rebalancing of the Supreme Court in view of the changes that have occurred as a result of the politicization of the court because of Donald Trump’s appointed arch conservatives. Advocates of a revamped Supreme Court — another pillar of democracy along with the Legislature — have called for at least four seats to be added to the court along with term limits. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a Boston Globe op-ed, “This is not the first time this extremist court has threatened, or outright dismantled, fundamental rights in this country. For years, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority — recently supercharged to 6-3 — has issued decision after decision that veers away from both basic principles of law and widely held opinion.”
Further, a country that prides itself on its exceptionalism should be eager to pass a Build Back Better bill, designed to raise people out of poverty, ensure health care as a fundamental right, care for its children and older adults, and people in need so that they can fully engage, whether in the marketplace, the workplace or at the seats of decision-making.
It is a national disgrace that congressional conservatives hide behind “socialism” when it comes to policies that lift Americans out of despair while defending a military budget of $7 billion dollars. Clearly, we must correct our disproportionate priorities if we want to stand with other nations that legislate for the common good.
If we are to maintain our democracy it falls to all of us to appreciate that with the exception of Native Americans, we are a country of immigrants who enrich us culturally and economically. There should be no room for marginalizing, excluding or terrorizing people because of race, ethnicity or religion. Yet we find deepening hatred and rage toward others resulting in terrible violence. It must end.
We must also strive now more than ever to protect not only our democracy, but also our planet if our legacy is to matter. The tornadoes in Kentucky and the fires in Colorado and California seemed apocalyptic, foreshadowing pending catastrophic events unless we, and Congress, act responsibly now.
Acting responsibly is a core value urgently needed in these times. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” The time for change in America — individually and collectively — is here and it is urgent if we wish to avert national and global catastrophe while forging a more promising future. We must each work toward (and vote for) the change most of us wish to see. Whether we call our actions resolutions or hopes, the time to start is upon us.