American Culture

Who will do it for you?

Guest Scrogue Aaron Silverstein is a hack of all trades working out of Denver. Trying to make .org changes in the .gov sphere using .net tools, he is an administrator of the Colorado political blog SquareState.net, a contributing editor of the national blog Docudharma.com, and is a staff member of the service organization Democrats Work.


When your politics is answered with floods and fires. When the government drowns you in the bathtub of their cynical failures, when apathy lets the weeds grow in your fields and when the machines tell you there are not enough votes to feed the hungry or to shelter the poor, who will do it for you?

There was music in New Orleans before the hard rain fell. Camps were filled with workers before fire blazed San Diego. The Chattahootchee, drawn low by drought, exposes the debris and neglect that low water and failed policy can no longer cover. In the streets of West Denver the children are playing on broken bottle pavement and in crack pipe parking lots. Who is going to bring it back to sanity?

You are.

There was an ideal. Before everything had changed, before the world of perpetual alerts, there was a moment between wars when politics needed no crutch of fear. Now there is a secret list of a half a million evil men, and as the list grows longer we are told to patiently wait in airport lines. There once was a world where the government asked something different from our time.

Even George Bush had a father:

I am speaking of a new engagement in the lives of others, a new activism, hands-on and involved, that gets the job done. We must bring in the generations, harnessing the unused talent of the elderly and the unfocused energy of the young. For not only leadership is passed from generation to generation, but so is stewardship.

Even Mitt Romney had a father:

Americans have four basic ways of solving problems that are too big for individuals to handle by themselves. One is through the federal government. A second is through state governments and the local governments that the states create. The third is through the private sector – the economic sector that includes business, agriculture, and labor. The fourth method is the independent sector – the voluntary, cooperative action of free individuals and independent association. Voluntary action is the most powerful of these, because it is uniquely capable of stirring the people themselves and involving their enthusiastic energies, because it is their own – voluntary action is the people’s action.

There was an ideal. It lived in the actions of every volunteer who answered Kennedy’s call to the Peace Corps and every volunteer who answered Clinton’s call to the AmeriCorps. It rang out every time Carter raised his hammer for Habitat for Humanity.

But to keep an aisle drawn sharply through the center of our country, some men tossed the ideal away. The elder Bush handed down leadership, but the younger could not comprehend stewardship. Some men advanced the argument that shaping perception was the only job of government. Politics was a media event, a photo opportunity, an empty message. All that mattered was the proper balance of threats and promises, and when the hurricanes made landfall, real life needed to be kept away from the cameras. There was nothing anyone could really do, except profit from misery.

But not everyone forgot the words of their fathers. Some people considered them, refined them, and put them into motion.

Jimmy Carter had a grandson:

Imagine if instead of enlisting the rank and file by asking us for money, Democratic politicians mobilized volunteers to clean up parks and trails, supported the families of our deployed troops, provided school supplies for children in need and sponsored basketball tournaments.Imagine if instead of asking us to sign a petition, Democratic political organizations joined us to make tangible contributions in our neighborhoods. Imagine if, when there is a critical need in a community, people could actually say, “call the Democrats, they always have people who can help.”

There is an opportunity now to change the world again. There is an ideal that can be put into action. Instead of a politics of fear – a politics of division – a politics of isolation – what if there was a politics of service?

While the children of Bush and Romney fight to prove who can fear the most and while they fight to drink the last glass of foreign petroleum, we could set our hands to work on the neighborhoods immediately around us.

We could plant the trees, clean the waters, raise the children, and care for the cities.

When the waters pull back in New Orleans, we can make a space for the musicians again. When the ash settles in California, we can stand by with shovels and hammers.

What could happen on that Georgian river, and on that Colorado street, if a new politics started to take root?

When people see the impotence of the old fear, and see the power of the new action, what new choices will they make? There is an opportunity to open a new door, but nobody is going to do it for you. You are going to have to put on a pair of boots. You are going to have to get started. When it is time to vote, then vote… but today, lead.

1 reply »

  1. I’m familiar with Democrats Work and can absolutely vouch for their commitment to contributing to the health of the communities they serve in meaningful ways. I wish we had more organizations like them out there.

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