2018: The Year We Recommitted to Our Democracy

It’s nearly one year out since I attended my first protest at the Philadelphia Women’s March. My wife attended the march in DC and I took my son and daughter to the one in downtown Philly. When I look back at the last year, it’s pretty amazing to see how much has changed. But I get ahead of myself.

Back in January 2017, I only knew two things:

I wanted to help save my country and I had no idea what that even meant.

The good news is that it’s one year later and I was lucky enough to befriend many similar-minded people in my hometown. I joined a group, volunteered and 2017 turned into one of activism for me.

I went from being an armchair pundit, slinging lots of words at what I was seeing on TV, but I took no action. In my previous 45 years around the sun, I might have sent a handful of letters to my member of Congress (MOC). Now I’ve called, faxed, emailed and tweeted to Senators and MOCs as though it were old hat for me.

I not only attended the Women’s March in Philadelphia, but the ban of immigrants protest at the Philadelphia International airport, the March for Science, Stand Up for Love event in a neighboring town after the Charlottesville protest in the summer as well as a die-in where I went to a park with a hundred like-minded people. We brought makeshift tombstones to protest the President’s working to end the Affordable Care Act.

Tens of thousands of people lining the parkway in Philadelphia at the Women’s March.

But it just wasn’t protests that I started attending: I canvassed door to door to help get the vote out, volunteered at community events to help train people on how to organize, taught people how to use social media and even went to my first school board meetings.

You might be asking: Why? Why did I do all this? I think that’s a fair question.

What made me change from being content in my little middle class bubble to attending events — some of which, like a discussion of race in America, were difficult to go to because I realized that I was part of the problem?

If I could sum everything up into one sentence, it would be:

Because I love America and want our great country to be a place of tolerance, respect and freedom for my children.

When I wrote my “Together, We Will Succeed” article last year, I did that to help boost morale for my friends and neighbors in my home town.

I really could not anticipate or see that by taking the time to volunteer that I would not only change and help the greater good in my town, but I’d become part of a wave that would wash across township.

Concerned citizens marching the streets of Philadelphia at the March for Science.

In the November elections, great change took place in my county. For the first time in many decades, Democrats were elected to office in typically Republican strongholds and our group even pushed for the first Pride Picnic in our town back in the summer and for the creation of a Transgender policy for our school district. A lot of people worked extremely hard to make that policy of inclusivity come to be. The school board, Superintendent, teachers, parents, administrators and students.

We all worked together to make change happen in our schools. And then in November, we came out of our homes and voted like never before. The wave of change has given me hope and it has shown me that my sometimes seemingly inconsequential actions can glam onto to those of others and that WE can work together to bring change.

Something happened to me in 2017 that I went from watching TV and being concerned armchair pundit, to becoming an activist. The secret, if you really want to know, is that I had no clue on what I was doing in the beginning. I just knew that I didn’t want to sit back and have my kids ask me in the future: “Where were you when President Trump said and did those horrible things?”

Now I can look them straight in the eye and tell them that I took a stand.

The calendar has change and we’re in 2018 now and there’s a chance for Democrats to win back the House and the Senate.

We have a President who bragged about grabbing women’s genitals, threatened North Korea to the brink of nuclear war, pulled out of the Paris agreement and defended White Supremacy groups.

I could go on and on and on, but that’s the point isn’t it? President Trump’s motis operandi is to shock, distract and continue onward with his agenda to consolidate power for himself and his family.

In 2018, I’m recommitting myself to helping my community by voting and continuing to volunteer.

Protests trying to save the Affordable Care Act

I am one person and I’m not special. I’m just an American citizen who has had enough.

Maybe you’ve felt the same way and don’t know where to start? Maybe you’re afraid like I was? Maybe you’re tired of all this nonsense and just want it all to go away?

But if there’s a tiny spark in you to try something different, than I ask you to please register to vote. In 2018, vote in the primaries as well as the November election. Our group pulled our resources together and built an online voting guide. For once I actually knew who the people were I was going to vote for!

Maybe you and your neighbors can do the same…

Become active and please vote! If you want to do more, then call and write to your representatives and tell them how you feel. One of the greatest sources of information for me in 2017 came from Indivisible. I went from knowing pretty much nothing to receiving emails from Indivisible that explained why I needed to call my Senator.

I realized that the democracy that I so love was a two-way street. I just didn’t get up and go to work and then my freedoms were owed to me because I was a citizen. No. Democracy means that I have a voice and I can use that voice, collaborate with others and make change happen.

The greatest example I can give of that is how our town worked together for the Transgender policy. Members of our group did the research, spoke at school board meetings, and more than a hundred of us would show up at those meetings to show our support. Teachers worked with administrators and the school board and all of us did our part to bring change to our community. It wasn’t a Democrat or Republican agenda, no, we all worked hard to ensure that any child (no matter their sexual or gender identity) would have a supportive environment to attend school.

We worked together. When the school board voted, the policy passed unanimously.

This is what democracy looks like.

I chanted that slogan at the protests I attended, but what I learned the most in 2017 is that the act of governing is hard work. Protests have their place, but at some point, sides need to come together and govern. They need to work and not just block the other side.

The secret to democracy is that it’s messy, but full of potential — for me and you. Laws, policies and guidelines aren’t made in a vacuum. No, we can play our part. America works because we all choose to believe in shared values that go across whether you’re a blue or red state, black or white, rich or poor — it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that I was complacent for most of my life and took my rights for granted. Trump’s presidency has taught me that what I hold so dear could be taken away from me and that each and every one of us has a choice.

Getting off the sofa and choosing to help is really hard and scary. I admit that. But when I look back at 2017, I see how my life has become more enriched and filled with purpose than I ever would have dreamed. Sure, I have so much yet to learn and that’s a good thing.

So I ask you now that it’s 2018. Will you join me?

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