You Don’t Get A Participation Award

America today is the land of the participation award. Or so many Americans think.

Love Trump/Bernie/Warren/Biden? Hate one or all? Hooray for you. Donate $5 to a campaign? Yeah, that’ll show those corporations. Wear a pink pussy hat on a march that has no defining issue? Great. Vote based on gender? Yeah, that’s what we need. Posting disparaging memes 80 times a day? Yeah, that’s politically educational and informative. Not to mention so unifying!

I’ve said many times and repeat it here that all names are cults. Of course, most people want to be in cults of some kind. It’s not a matter of supporting policies or issues. It’s a matter of branding, nothing more. What do you call yourself? Democrat? Republican? Liberal? Tea Partier?

The one place I do draw a distinction is with the majority of Progressives. Progressives are the most informed voters and citizens. The whole point of being a real Progressive is paying attention to policies. Of course, some people call themselves Progressive yet are willing to ignore specific issues, no matter the danger but think they deserve the Progressive label. In favor of universal healthcare, so call yourself a Progressive? Yeah, let’s not talk about the risk of war with Russia. Hint: Many Republican voters support universal healthcare. Participation award denied.

Look, in 2016 most of us made it clear we wanted changes in our political landscape. That was the whole point of Bernie, Jill, Johnson and even Trump. We are still pushing for change.

Hillary was the exception, promising “more of the same”. Yet ultimately nearly every one of her followers had no idea what her policies were. To the point that I asked them directly and they could not answer. Even today I occasionally encounter one and ask what policies of hers they supported and they cannot answer. Just try and change the subject. “I’m not Trump” is not a policy. Once you establish that, they are lost.

Of course, the change we got is not what most Trump supporters expected. Most are still trying to convince themselves he is playing some 85-D chess game but it’s beginning to sink in slowly that this is not the case.

If we really want change, we have to embrace that change and all that it means. We cannot demand our government do better for us while objecting to government involvement in our lives. Instead, we have to be involved with our government. You know, a government of the people, by the people, for the people? Remember that? You don’t get that kind of government without you being involved in it.

Being involved means being informed. It means having difficult discussions which do not happen by censoring some voices or rejecting ideas because you don’t like certain words like Socialism.

Change means we have to let go of some of our fears. Such as ending wars and reducing military spending means we have to accept that we are under no threat. Because we’re not under any threat. Not from outside, any way. It means we have to change our electoral system, which ideally would mean all elections federally funded to eliminate corporate money in our elections. It will mean ranked choice voting.

I understand, change is stressful, even positive change. However, we cannot demand change and then oppose change because we are afraid of it. We cannot demand change without being a part of that change. It’s the same as paying off bills. You don’t pay off bills without either working more hours, meaning less time to relax or cutting back on expenses, meaning you may do without luxuries for a while. We have to decide that long term change is worth some trade.

For us to enact realistic change means we will have to let go of labels and reach across aisles. It means we have to be willing to talk with people we may not always agree with. That can be difficult but has to happen. We cannot always wait for them to come to us. How many times have you changed your mind when you opposed an idea at first?

In true democracy, there are no participation awards. We don’t get the society or system of government we want by just showing up wearing a red hat, a pink hat or a sticker. It takes more than that. It takes information ,education, discussion, protest, phone calls, emails, letters, stress and personal change. Democracy is not “set it and forget it”. It means staying involved. It’s not something we do once every 4 years. If you are not willing to do that, then you have to accept the fact that people with other ideas are willing to do it. If they are involved and you are not, you probably won’t like the results.

Written by

Issues unite, names divide

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store