Just Because Our Politicians Don’t Have the Political Will Doesn’t Mean We Should Give Up
On Saturday afternoon, I woke up on my front porch from an unplanned but welcome nap. The zen of my unexpected slumber quickly disappeared after I saw the news of yet another mass shooting from El Paso. I sent a paranoid and panicked message to my friends who live there, and they thankful confirmed their safety in minutes. Then, I stomped around the house, angry that these shootings continue to happen, and discouraged because I feel so helpless to affect change on this issue.
The cycle repeated itself the next morning when I woke up to the news of the Dayton shooting. Two in less than 24 hours. I watched all the Sunday morning news shows hoping maybe this time would be different, but expecting the rhetoric to be the same.
I’m a “passionate geek” about advocacy. A citizen’s right to tell her elected officials what she wants is, to me, an essential part of democracy. Google any political or social issue and you will find someone who advocates for or against it. The environment. The second amendment. Education. Foreign Affairs. Public Safety. Infrastructure. Animal Rights.
Advocacy is voting intensified. It’s freedom of speech. If you're in a group, it's freedom of assembly and association. It’s how we tell the government to spend money and shape policy to better reflect our values.
And I love it.
Originally published on the Global Communities website.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Valley (BGCMV) has been an integral part of the Floreciente community since it opened its first club in the neighborhood in 1994. Their presence has since expanded to include a Teen Center as well as administrative offices for the entire Quad Cities area. Whereas the BGCMV is highly regarded among community members for their youth programming, their Administration Building – located in the center of the neighborhood – needed to be repaved to deter people from leaving their cars unattended on the lot.
Several additional buildings, public infrastructure, and other services in Floreciente also needed improvements to make them more welcoming to residents. Neighbors, business owners, and representatives from local organizations that work in the Floreciente neighborhood began to meet monthly to identify and prioritize community needs. They also worked to identify projects that would increase community pride and participation and civic activities in Floreciente early on to draw more neighbors to their cause. Popular suggestions included undertaking beautification projects, planting flowers, addressing transportation issues, creating play areas, and celebrating together.
I have been lucky enough to work with community organizers and politicians throughout the Midwest, as well as in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and South Sudan. As a result, I have helped craft and implement to a wide variety of community development initiatives from the “usual” (building roads and schools, providing health care, fostering employment opportunities for youth) to the “surreal” (addressing python infestation currently tops the list). Part of the process in developing countries is teaching people about key principles for civic education and engagement, which is something Americans all know about, but we sometimes forget. The Chicago Tribune recently asked readers to submit ideas about a plan for Chicago, and while drafting my plan to address crime and violence, I put together some ideas about civic engagement and government, and how we can re-engage in city decision-making.
Includes professional topics, as well as thoughts about politics. I also keep a blog on Medium that includes these, as well as more personal posts.