I found time to get some dirt and gravel under my tires at sunset tonight, a long overdue breath of country air. A sliver of sunset hung at the horizon as low scuttle clouds raced from the south. I secretly hoped for a spectacular underlighting that never came, but the skies didn’t disappoint. My short jaunt of skychasing on this unseasonably warm day was the perfect cabin fever cure.
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Since the 2016 election, there’s been increasing talk about the voting power of the states being disproportional to state population — both through the electoral college electing the president (proportional + 2) and in the Senate (2 votes each). This system was created when there were 16 states, 5 of which (VA, PA, MA, NY, NC) comprised 58% of the country’s population. The system prevents the larger states from drowning out the voice of the smaller states.
Fast forward to 2018. Should this still apply? We now have 50 states. Taking approximately the same proportion (16 states – CA, TX, FL, NY, PA, IL, OH, GA, NC, MI, NJ, VA, WA, AZ, MA, TN), the population of this “top third” now comprises 68% of the population, so we’ve gotten more concentrated as a nation.
So, if we still want the protection of the little state, the system makes sense. The chances of changing it are nearly impossible, because it would take a constitutional amendment that would require the vote of the bottom 2/3 to pass.
We’re stuck with this folks, so it’s likely time to stop complaining about it and figure out how to work within the system. The Republicans have their strategy — focus on the presidency and the Senate. Dems? Well, it looks like they need to rebuild a base in states like PA and MI to flip the imbalance of power in their favor.
We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.
But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.
Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.
Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.
I wanted to be first in line at my polling place this morning. There was something symbolic in that notion. I arrived 25 minutes early to a parking lot devoid of activity, the only cars those of the poll workers inside. Some news story captured my attention and when I looked up, there was a person standing first in line at the doors. My plan up in smoke. As I approached, I saw it was a young African-American woman and smiled. I thought to myself, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t have to be first, I just have to be a part of the solution. I was proud to stand behind her as she approached the table as Voter #1.
Ten years ago today, we elected the first person of color as our president — but what mattered more than the color of his skin was the way he made so many of us feel … hopeful. No matter where you stand on the political continuum today, there doesn’t seem to be much hope.
This afternoon, I attended a lecture by an entrepreneur alumnus whose family came to the US as asylum seekers from Uzbekistan when he was eight. He’s created thousands of jobs in the US economy. Then I read this story about an immigrant couple whose community is taking care of them in a time of need. This is who we are America, not the fearmongering racism of the president’s rallies and TV ads.
When you vote tomorrow, let’s see if we can find some of that hope and rekindle the American Dream for all of our citizens, and, yes, the world. Let’s find a way back to being that beacon of hope.
When you vote, remember who we are and aspire to be. Your vote does matter. It always matters.
As we enter November, fall color is deep and plentiful after a week of cool, wet weather. Whether the sky is overcast grey or brilliant blue, the reds, oranges, and yellows pop. The weight of the rain brought many leaves to the ground, creating a carpet around and over our gardens. Perennials may be on their way into dormancy, but they’re refusing to go without one last show of gold.
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The news has been nauseating. It’s like we’ve opened Pandora’s box and released all our worst inclinations into the public square. I reminded myself of one part of the Pandora myth this morning — hope remained in the jar (box) after the evil was released into the world. Hope needs our help right now. We have to find the goodness, beauty, and progress that still abound in the world, shadowed by the specter of these unleashed demons. We have to help hope regain her rightful place at the front of our lives, our communities, and our nation. That means lifting up the good we find. That means respecting *all* of our neighbors. That means being active in civil life, exercising our obligation to vote for hope not division. And it means challenging Pandora’s minions when they cross our daily paths.
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. It’s been swirling in my brain, heart, and gut for quite a while, but every time I feel like I’m close to putting fingers to keyboard, I shy away, worried of the reaction from all sides.
It’s a sensitive topic, you see. A white guy writing to other white guys about being a white guy in today’s society and culture.
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My son is in his first real relationship at 16. It’s wonderful to witness how he smiles and laughs around her, how they just seem comfortable around each other. What impresses me the most is how he gives of himself for her. There’s a quiet ease in which he cares for her, so natural it seems innate.
I don’t know what their future holds, but I do know this: For their relationship to last, to thrive, they will both need to understand that love is not a feeling.
Love is a choice. Love is an action.
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