Alone, each of us is fairly powerless unless we have money or deadly weapons – which goes a long way toward explaining why gun ownership and inequities in wealth are intractable issues in our society today.
Gun ownership is a perennial issue. But with the sudden availability of information in real time about inequities in wealth, and injustices all over the world, people are beginning to recognize that there is another source of power available to them: solidarity with others in social groups having common goals and priorities -- clans, clubs, churches, crowds; professional associations, political parties, unions, democratic governments, and protests like Occupy Wall Street.
Next year we are going to face a crucial test of our democracy and our national priorities in electing a President and a new Congress. I and many others are not happy with a Congress and administration that spends the bulk of our taxes on wars and deadly weapons, on targeted assassinations and the arrest or surveillance of private persons, is obsessed with deficits and dismissive of loss of jobs and homes and people dying from lack of health care. We don’t like the bailout of banks on the backs of ordinary people trying to make decent lives and decent livings for their families and their communities.
When the rich 1% can get the other 99% of us to pay for everything – their wars, their deficits, their extraction and marketing of fossil fuels, their casinos (banks, markets, derivatives, etc) their pay and bonuses in millions, their taxes – as well as our Social Security, our Medicare and health services, our transportation and highways, our postal service, our schools, our water and sewer infrastructure, our food safety – why should they tolerate protests at OWS events, allow us to join unions and participate in governance, or even allow us to vote?
This year in Ohio we have to deal with efforts to destroy the solidarity of common people, divide us with envy and resentment, deny equal dignity and equal rights to immigrants, gays, women, blacks and the poor, dis-empower public servants and their unions, and disenfranchise whole blocs of voters.
What to do? Vote while you can.
Vote NO on Issue 2 to repeal SB 5. Issue 2 is a referendum on SB 5 which was designed to deny our teachers and public servants a seat at the table where decisions are made about their professional responsibilities. It is also openly intended to destroy unions and political participation by Democrats. Tom Zawistowski of the Portage County TEA Party said: "When we pass Issue 2, and the Democratic Party and the Unions are defunded, they will not have the money to compete in Ohio next year."
Vote NO on Issue 3. Issue 3 proposes an Ohio constitutional amendment to address the federal mandate for health insurance, an issue already under challenge in the courts. It would severely limit the ability of local and state government to deal with health emergencies. Issue 3 was primarily designed to bring out voters resentful of their neighbors or angry at "government mandates" they believe will restrict their freedoms, and is not supported by responsible conservatives or any major Ohio newspaper.
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In July the Ohio legislature passed a bill designed to restrict early voting and make it harder for the young, elderly, non-white, poor or handicapped to vote. The law was suspended when petitions for a referendum bearing over 300,000 signatures were submitted. It is not now in effect, and if enough signatures are validated, it cannot take effect until after a referendum in 2012.. It’s not on this year’s ballot.
A new redistricting bill designed to give the Republicans 12 out of 16 seats in the U.S. House is now being challenged by a petition drive for another referendum. It can’t be on the ballot until 2012, creating strong pressure for a new, more fair bill, which may yet be negotiated.
What else can responsible voters do?
Vote YES for your local school levy – don’t cheat our children of the education they will need to deal with the mess we have made of the world. I’m not an advocate of top-down federal control of education – especially not when the legislation governing it is written by corporations or capitalists who make big campaign contributions in exchange for not paying taxes. I also recognize that we can’t reach national goals for education with local control and local financing of schools.
But today’s Kindergartners can’t wait until we untangle the mess at the national level. Vote for the school levy because you care about kids and don’t hate teachers. Vote for the school levy because you can know your school board members, attend school board meetings and participate at the grass roots level with your neighbors. Vote for the levy because you can run for school board yourself.
Vote YES for your local library issue. Libraries are fundamental to our First Amendment rights of speech, Press and assembly; they are social centers as well as learning centers – they build strong communities and provide opportunities for all people to learn, communicate and meet together.
With the very real possibility that the world economy may collapse, that WW III may start in the Middle East, or that major disasters may be triggered by global warming, we're going to need to empower one another to address challenges on every level, and to protect our democratic processes from the grass-roots up.