Executive Director Column 12/16/14
Best wishes this holiday season, and we hope all is well with you, your family, friends and loved ones. We have lived through a fairly intense year together.
This edition of the CFJC newsletter marks a change from the usual. For one thing, we are taking the opportunity to look back on some of the activities staff has done at the local, state and national levels, in hope that you will consider making a donation to help continue the work.
We are also instituting a widget that connects you to the latest news via social media, so that you can check in real time the activities of people engaged in some of the pressing issues across the country—which may include tracking Congressional activities, student unrest, climate actions, and civil gatherings in support of equal justice and due process for everyone. This edition highlights the Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
This means you can refer back to this page to get in touch with what people and communities are doing to register dissatisfaction with business as usual, and to effect the positive changes we all want to see.
Undeniably, there is unrest in many communities. Yesterday, the Senate passed a funding Omnibus bill that foreshadows the next year’s efforts of a Congress dominated by a conservative majority that believes the 2014 election results give them a mandate to dismantle the safety net programs, small farm supports, and conservation measures won over the past fifteen years.
The 2014 Omnibus federal funding bill begins that process, which was supported by President Obama and the Democratic controlled Senate because they believe it is the best they could expect.
Maybe they are right.
But even if they are, that does not give us leave to sit back and say, “the people have spoken; it’s time to let the new Congress chart a course for the future of our country.”
There is unrest in communities across the country today because people feel in their guts that something is wrong with politics and governance in the U.S.
In 2014, United States politics is defined by:
- Money equals free speech
- Corporations are people
- Record political contributions by corporations and millionaires and billionaires
- Gerrymandered Congressional districts mean that only a few elections are truly competitive
In California, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reports a Record Low Turnout for regular general elections.
What all this means is that political campaigns in this country are as seriously out of whack as the notion that whatever a policeman does that results in the death of a child is by definition the right thing to do.
There is a famous quote we all have heard that is apropos: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing,” which is alternately attributed to Edmund Burke, or Charles Frederic Aked.
I won’t quibble with the use of the word “evil.” Can we all just agree that something is wrong when our children are killed by the men who are supposed to protect us?
Likewise, can we agree that is foolish to believe that election results prove that “corporations are people” and “money is free speech,” when those results were bought and paid for by corporations and billionaires?
Maybe it is time for us all to take a deep breath…relax… and come to terms with what we need to do to begin to assume the responsibilities we have as blessed members of a free society.
First and foremost, we need to take responsibility for voter turnout.
If you did vote in the last election, congratulations, but obviously that is not enough.
It’s time we take responsibility for our community, or our tribe, or our church group, or whatever kind of community of which you are a part.
There isn’t enough money in the world that could separate me from what’s best for my daughter. Why then, do we allow money to determine what is best for our communities?
I am referring of course to the obscene amount of money lavished on consultants, media outlets, and yes, on political candidates.
If we truly believe and stand up and take responsibility for our roles in community, then it should be obvious that the very first question we need to ask political candidates is; “Who is paying for your political campaign?” And if any political candidate tries to hide behind the interpretations of a Supreme Court that has lost its way, I say:
This is the season when typically, people in this country do open their hearts, and wallets and homes to love, compassion, and the well-being of all in our communities. And it is true that in this arena too, many businesses have found a way to make a buck.
But that is alright. We need local business to be a healthy part of any community. And, the concentration of good will on the part of community members ensures the proper balance social, spiritual, and economic well-being and good intentions.
So, maybe it is that same balance that we need to bring to the political arena.
We can all honestly say that we have the best Congress that money can buy, when record amounts of contributions have paid for the results.
It is time to face that reality, and turn our thoughts and actions to what we can do to turn the ship of state back towards the direction embodied by our best platitudes.
This should be the country where we say, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and that “all men are created equal.”
Can we pledge to make 2015 the year we take back our country, defined by the values on which we were raised?
If you are reading this, then you are one of the adults responsible for the country we will leave to the younger people still in grade school, or high school.
Maybe it is time to step up and take responsibility.
It is not going to be easy.
The Supreme Court has paved the way for gobs of money to mount an ungodly campaign against the will of common people. Moreover, many politicians—good people at heart, have lost their way in maneuvering the political landscape that demands compromise, funded by an seemingly never ending flow of money from corporate interests—will be seriously challenged to go against the status quo.
So what else is new?
Think back on the many intersections in your life, when there but for luck, the grace of god, or twist of fate, your life might have gone down another road.
And isn’t it true, that once faced, the scariest thing in your life is now but a memory of a challenge met, faced and overcome.
And even if you did not feel or believe yourself a winner in the moment—you are here now, alive, and a winner in the sweepstakes of life.
Why not make a personal commitment to stand up and be counted in this final challenge, decades in the making, to ensure that the United States is the place we can proudly call home?
We know the money is aligned against us.
What else is new?
This holiday season, if you have anyone in your life who is in your thoughts, give thanks that you are alive and breathing, and share the joy with them, even it is just in your heart.
Make a pledge to do whatever you can in 2015, no matter how small or large, to make this place better for your presence. You have that power, and no amount of money or influence can change that.
It is going to be tough going at times in the coming year. Please be assured that staff at CFJC will be there to help.
So once again, if you are able, please make a contribution so that we can continue to work on your behalf. We will do so even if you can’t contribute, but it would be nice to get a full paycheck at least some of the time.
But more importantly, know that you are loved, honored and respected for your presence on the planet; for thoughts you give to making this world a better place for us all.
Peace and blessings, to you and yours.
Y. Armando Nieto
& the CFJC Staff, Steering Committee, and Community