Every time I look at the news, I’m greeted by a new, awful report about how something I deeply value is about to be thrown under the bus. It’s mind-boggling, not to mention emotionally exhausting. Just out of curiosity, I made a list of what is currently under direct threat (be sure to scroll down to the rest of my post, because this is a long list):
- A no-holds-barred fight against climate change, the most dangerous challenge we’re facing (with the possible exception of nuclear war)
- Continuing to phase out nuclear weapons so we don’t annihilate civilization and permanently poison our planet
- Finding ways to live sustainably and limit population growth so we don’t deplete all of our natural resources and face a dystopia like the ones described in the bleakest scifi novels
- Finding ways to conserve the ecosystems, wildlife, biodiversity, and beauty of our planet, because our lives and spirits depend on doing so
- As a country, relating to the rest of the world with humility and thoughtfulness instead of arrogance and aggression, in order to maximize peace and minimize armed conflicts and terrorism
- Fighting racism in law enforcement and the criminal justice system
- Refusing to succumb to fear and prejudice in the face of terrorism, and standing with our Arab and Muslim brothers and sisters
- Having compassion for immigrants who just came here for a better life
- Responding with generosity to desperate, nationless refugees as if they were our neighbors (which they are)
- Making sure all people in our country are free to make choices about the course of their own lives – where to live, how to live, who to love, how to make their living – and that they have enough opportunities to make that freedom meaningful
- Making sure all people in our country are free from oppression, prejudice, and discrimination from others based on their race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, immigration status, country of origin, disability – in short, that all people are given a chance, and only judged by the content of their character and by their actions
- A woman’s right to control what happens to her own body, even if abortion is sad, and doing whatever we can to support women (and men) so parenthood can be planned
- Addressing extreme income inequality, widespread poverty, and the gradual erosion of the real incomes of all working Americans
- Finding creative ways to bring manufacturing jobs back to America that don’t involve gutting labor and environmental protections
- Clean water, air, and land for all
- Freedom for all from pollution and environmental degradation caused by corporate greed, but especially for indigenous peoples, and for communities that are poor and/or composed largely of people of color
- Quality public education for all
- Affordable health care for all
- Preserving social security one of the greatest aspects of our commonwealth because we want to take care of our elders
- Public education and arts organizations (NPR, PBS, NEA), which form a tiny portion of our federal budget but enrich the lives of all Americans
- Free and fair elections, on which our democracy depends, where all Americans have equal opportunity to vote, regardless of the color of their skin or their socioeconomic status
- Equal representation in voting, which means getting rid of the electoral process in the presidential election, where Wyoming gets one electoral vote per 142,741 people, but California only gets one per 508,344 people
- Freedom of the press, on which our democracy depends
- Net neutrality, on which our democracy increasingly depends
- Fighting corporate control of our democracy, particular by overturning Citizens United
- Protecting our democracy by making sure our legislators and leaders are ethical and don’t have substantial conflicts of interest based on their personal business holdings and investments
- Protecting our democracy by honoring the separation of church and state, so each person is free to act according to their own conscience but is not allowed to restrict the actions of others based purely on their own religious or moral beliefs, whether through legislation, policy, intimidation, violence, or through denial of service or participation in public, non-religious settings.
Oh, the list could go on.
I could pick just one of these issues and devote all of my time to it. And maybe that’s what has to happen for anything to happen. Maybe we all just have to pick something to protect or work for, and count on others to deal with the rest.
But I resist focusing on just one thing because, damn it, they’re all connected! And they’re all so essential! How can I focus on climate change and ignore the anxiety the Muslims and Mexicans (and all people of color) in my local community must be feeling right now? How can I focus on protecting our democratic process from corporate interference and forget about public education, which is the primary means to an intelligent, informed electorate? How can I work to protect net neutrality (which makes sure articles like this reach you based on the level of people’s interest in them, rather than on how much individuals pay to get their content on the web), and forget about helping to find a way for humans to live on this planet without turning it into a wasteland?
I’m beginning to think the answer – or at least an answer – lies in a careful examination of the values that lie behind a list like the one above. What do all of these issues have in common? Fundamentally, what values are we standing for? Perhaps, if we come together on and clarify our values – what we want – we can form one movement fighting on many fronts. What do you think?