Beyond the Vote.
I did not vote. I will not vote unless on the local level. I sure as well will not bullied into voting for a candidate or representative that has not articulated or shown evidence that not only the interest of myself and the immediate community is secured, but also an obligation to the well-being and livelihood of those outside of our borders. I have too many family members and close friends to keep my reality bounded within these borders, so I cannot afford to simply vote for my best interest knowing I could be electing a leader who will quietly or loudly support a US lead-coup in another country and destabilization plan. The beautiful thing about these systems though- they will continue finding a way to work and fulfill their agenda with or without our participation. If it has not been evident by the mere history of this country since it’s occupation on this land, it had to be crystal clear in the past two years and these past two elections.
You must understand the perspective that I am carrying. I do not believe in the legitimacy of the United States as an authority over my life, future, or well-being. I do not acknowledge the United States as a legitimate state; it is settler state, an illegal occupation. Our participation within these systems are coerced. What does that mean? It means many things: 1) If there is a threat of force present, if you are lied to, purposely not informed on the mechanisms of a system and how it is truly functioning, that is coercion 2) we are not fully informed on the workings of this country, the context it was created in, and how it has been designed not for us, but around us. Manipulating the reality of a person to gain their compliance and participation is coercion. If you read the history of this country, there are countless examples of coercion to gain public support from domestic policy or international military action. 9/11 is probably our best contemporary example of this. If we contextualize our relationship with the government in this manner, it becomes clear that our agency and autonomy is under attack. The government answers to us based on our lived experiences, concerns, analysis, perspectives- not the other way around. The moment we have allowed another entity to do that for us and define our world and create structures for us based on their perception of our lives, experiences, etc.- we have given up our agency. Voting in this context is a means of coerced participation.
Voting is only a tool; it is the most basic tool of civic engagement or government coercion. It is vital, but to an extent. Voting locally is vital to the distribution of resources for programs, healthcare, economic relief, etc. This is greatly because local leaders are typically more accessible, and it is more feasible to hold these actors accountable. The same cannot be said once we get to the state/national level. If voting is our end goal or if our end goal even relies within these constructed systems, you are not fighting for liberation, but reform. Reform will not set us free. Reform will not ensure the human rights and self-determination of those currently being oppressed and persecuted. Reform softens blows.
As a community organizer, I am extremely disheartened to see “friends” and colleagues rally, speak, and fight so hard only for voting. The problem is not that people organized around voting, but it is that these same characters are silent for two years until two months prior to an election. They are reactionary, and this is what we cannot afford. It is not the nonvoters and third-party voters that are the problem; it is reactionary tactics to the tyranny and fascism. It is the idea that voting and these elections should not be critiqued and criticized, that progress can be found in reactionary tactics like these in the face of strategic genocide and grabs for power, that this country truly relies on our political participation and thought and not just our bodies. All of this energy exerted into these tactics, and it is heartbreaking to watch as an organizer. It leads to burnout and cynicism that can be almost impossible to recover from. This is where I am unapologetically bitter: I can never get this amount of effort, care, and attentiveness to the everyday plights of the same folks people claim to be doing this for. These people never prioritized the black and brown people every day they walk past on the streets sleeping on the bench or sitting in the doorways of banks; they are still as vulnerable and forgotten after the speeches and elections.
We need to be more critical about where we are putting our energy and being honest about whether it is in our best interest to give it to the state instead of investing in creating or existing community systems addressing the concerns and livelihood of ourselves, our immediate community around us everyday. When the elections are over and you’ve been disappointed by the results yet again from gerrymandering, voter suppression, and ill-informed voters, lack of political education, etc.- how are you going to continue to take responsibility for your community and city? Here’s a very simple list:
- Educating yourself on the United States history not from the perspective of an American. We must look at the world from the principles of self-determination for all nations and people, and every nation has a right to defend themselves in the face of invasion, assimilation to a greater power, and/or in the face of tyranny. Learning history from the perspective of other countries outside of the US is important because we learn to see that history is never as objective as we have been taught to believe.
- Put these issues in the context of power. Contextualize everything in the context of power and understand that the United States sees the world and power as “zero or all.”
- Educate yourself on multiple different forms of actions, tactics, and ideologies. There is no one answer, but you need to find where you fit in. Attacking this beast from every corner and angle strategically is our best hope.
- Get involved in mutual aid programs by community grassroots organization. Mutual aid programs are programs that rely on service, resources provided by the people to help serve other people in need; they typically address food insecurity, clothing insecurity, healthcare, etc.
- Use your imagination. In this world, very little seems possible. The more you unlearn, the more you realize the barriers and boundaries have been placed in your mind of what is possible from humanity and yourself. Let you imagine wonder. Be idealistic about your future. Then find realistic ways to make it happen. Dream outside of the existence of Amerika.
- Be strategic. We do not and can no longer react to this tyranny. We must learn the essence and importance of independence and autonomy. If voting and electoral politics are truly your passion, then you should the necessity and strategy in engaging with your community through mutual aid. This creates trust, understanding of the experiences of others, and
This list is only a few of things that can be done, but it must be done with the same energy and fire used to mobilize and organize voters for the polls. We can no longer afford to wait for our politicians to get it right. If they can’t get it right, it’s time to leave their asses behind. Real talk. This same mindset created this country; this same mindset can also dismantle it and its oppression if we truly know it and act on it.