Happy 420, America.
Tomorrow morning at 9am my friend Lt. Dan Choi will go on trial for protesting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He came out in 2010 on the Rachel Maddow Show– the same year that the law was struck down. Despite the fact that his cause for protesting– DADT– no longer exists, the Justice Dept has aggressively pursued this case and repeatedly denied his requests to have the charges dismissed for three years.
Dan is one of the bravest, strongest, best people I know.
He’s got a whole lot of gut and passion and love and watching him as he literally crafts his own defense– defending his very dignity to a country that he risked his life to serve– has been one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life.
He deserves better than this.
We made this song and video to raise awareness:
The hashtag is #fail2obey.
I’m literally and actually pleading with you on this one– help get the word out.
If you live in DC we’ll be at the courthouse tomorrow at 8:00 AM and we’ll be joined by Ben Jealous, Peter Tatchell and a number of other civil rights leaders.
Meet us there?
For more info visit www.dadtprotest.com
Before proceeding– I asked my new friend Alston, 16, to read this post before publishing it. He told me the piece wasn’t too long- a concern of mine- and asked me to explain what politics was both in person and upfront in this post.
The answer is simple.
There’s what politics is, and what politics is supposed to be…
Currently? Our political process is a mess. Ideally? As I understand it, our political process was created to give power to the people — to empower Americans to play a role in the decision making that results in the rules, laws and decisions that determine how we live our lives. We live in a representative democracy meaning that we elect people to government with the hope that they do one thing and one thing only.
Americans aren’t looking for a hand out– they’re looking for assistance. Politicians are elected to pass laws, oversee budgets and to prioritize where money is spent — ideally they’re spending money on things like infrastructure (roads and buildings) and education (schools and supplies). Currently? A lot of our money goes towards financing wars and defense spending. Ideally, politicians are accessible meaning that as a constituent (someone who lives in his/her district) you feel comfortable enough to email or call the office of your Congress person or Council member with a question or concern. Does your district not feel safe? Does your school need to be renovated? You should call your representative to say as much.
Alston told me that he’s anxious to see another skate park built in his home district Ward 4. He’s going to try organizing towards making that happen. I’m going to help him. He’s trying to stay out of trouble — loves to read — and loves to skate. We have to empower kids like him to take matters into their own hands.
There’s obviously much more to be said about politics and government. If you have young people in your life, I encourage you to talk to them. As I told Alston, the internet places the world at his fingertips. It’s also up to him to google his questions — the answers are out there. In the meantime, I want to take a minute to speak to the greater issue of civic engagement while focusing on one election, that I’m personally invested in, in particular.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling increasingly frustrated with our political process… this election cycle more so than most.
I’ve made my thoughts on the matter pretty clear…
My gut tells me that, this time around, change will actually come from the ground up. But that assessment doesn’t justify dismissing the political process outright. In fact quite the contrary.
Over the last few years, I’ve worked primarily in politics and in the process have interacted with dozens of politicians particularly on the local level. After a while it becomes really easy to spot the difference between a “politician” and person who does politics.
The people who do politics are the ones who, more often than not, abide by the principle that doing the right thing is good politics.
Nobody’s infallible, but let’s face it; most folks in metropolitan areas settle when it comes to who we elect to represent us.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling pretty frustrated with that too.
He’s a person who does politics.
His career as an educator and youth advocate confirms a steadfast commitment to tackling the systemic deficinices of our education system, increasing opportunities for small business, all while encouraging ethical activity in government. Furthermore, Max maintains the sort of grassroots sensibilities that are near and dear to my own organizing heart. With Max as a DC Council member, the residents of Ward 4 will be a part of the system rather than victims of it.
I know. I don’t live in the district. In fact, I live in New York City with all of it’s stereotypes of liberals and lattes and hooligans etc.
You might think I have no business butting into the affairs of another city.
I hear you. Here’s the thing; the root cause of the symptoms that plague Ward 4 are the same that plauge every city in America. There’s a lack of leadership at a time when change is leaderless. We’re seeing it right now — I’m seeing it by virtue of the work I’m doing with Plan4Trayvon.com – there’s a hunger for change grounded in the understanding that perhaps we all do have a role to play in making things better. The way I see it that kind of change only happens if we all commit to changing — to personally trying to be better. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more important towards that end than reclaiming our political legitimacy. To placing a stake in our politics.
I also know that I’m no celebrity and as it stands, culturally, they’re the only ones whose endorsements seem to carry any weight. But the truth is that whether your name is Oprah or Warren Buffett, Sandra Fluke or Joe the Plumber — in the ballot box — we’re all equals. It doesn’t matter if you’ve contributed a billion dollars to a Super Pac or five dollars to a candidate for local school board– on election day, you only have one vote.
I’ve known Max for quite some time and I know he’s a good guy. Yet I’m invested in this election now for folks like Alston – for folks like the patrons of Debre Selam St. Marry church, that I met Sunday morning, who are doing innovative work around education and community. They need an ally. I think they’ll find one in Max.
If we want things to get better – we have to vote.
Every level of government.
Every election day.
If we don’t show up, then those in leadership start to show off. They start acting in their own interests rather than in the interest of their constiuients.
It happens across the country. It’s currently happening in Ward 4.
Right now, the recent standardized assessments in Ward 4 and throughout the city have shown alarming reversals. Teachers operate under a punitive and highly-politicized IMPACT evaluation system. Furthermore, the district is currently faced with a rising teen unemployment rate and a growing achievement gap between white and black students.
Ward 4, you can do better. I’m of the belief that Max is the man you need in your corner to do just that.
Don’t live in the district? That’s okay, I’m talking to you too.
These times require a change in leadership — we can’t, and frankly shouldn’t, all run for office. Yet we can all recognize a good thing when we see it and support those, particularly those who are young and/or innovative, who take on the burden of running for office.
Collectively we tend not to do that.
It’s a story I know too well.
The last candidate I supported and worked for – who remains one of the best people I know — is a man named David Yassky. David’s currently NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commissioner but in 2009 he ran and lost the race for NYC City Comptroller. Three years later — the man he lost to — City Comptroller John Liu, is currently under federal investigation for shady campaign accounting. Mr. Liu was recently charged with fraud and obstruction of justice.
Voter turnout in New York City on Election Day 2009 was incredibly low.
We allow this to happen. All of the time.
David lost his election.
Max still has the potential to win his.
Like many others, Max has also been vocal about the larger issues at stake when we discuss #Justice4Trayvon — watch the video below for his powerful insights:
The election is on Tuesday.
I’ll be in DC, until the polls close, joining other volunteers over the course of the next few days to knock on doors.
Want to join us? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Historically, we’ve tried just about everything in the pursuit of making things better. Protesting, rioting, marching, rallying, boycotting — all of those things have a place and the process of a change is a marathon not a sprint. The simple truth is that we haven’t tried this.
We’ve yet to explore what happens if we #VoteEverytime.
I’m not exactly sure what I’m hoping you do with this hashtag…
I guess I’m just hoping that you think, and feel, and do – frankly- anything that reflects the fact that you’ve both thought and felt something. Petitions are stationary- they mostly live online, the names blur together, the number of signatures feels distant. Rallies are immediate- we go to them- we feel something, we go home. They serve a purpose. As does anger, and sadness, and disgust. But I’m sick of feeling those things…and those feelings tend to numb, eventually.
Thoughts are powerful. Conversations make the difference.
I guess that’s what I’m hoping you do with this hashtag…
I’m hoping you use it.
Song lyrics below the jump…
The truth is a powerful thing.
But in our politics, it’s also a pretty scarce thing…
The 2012 Election Cycle is little more than a depressing exercise in what happens when all bets are off– when things like human decency and complexity take a back seat to pontification and electoral strategies, identity politics and cultural buzzwords.
The 2012 Election Cycle Sucks.
Because there’s no real choice in this election.
We can’t hold him accountable because his main competitors; Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich aren’t equipped to take his place.
Not a single one of them stands a chance against President Obama electorally—they’ve all isolated significant segments of the population while attempting to appeal to their conservative base.
In the process they’ve taken different stances on so many positions that it’s impossible to decipher what they stand for.
In 2012 there’s no real choice and that sucks.
Don’t believe me?
Well, even Republican Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour has admitted that none of these candidates have yet made the case that they can beat Obama.
No such case exists.
For insight into why that is check out my #GOPTrilogy; A series of candidate music videos all set to the tunes of Brooklyn-based up and coming Indie group Motive who have been kind enough to lend me their music. These videos have been released over the course of the last month with “Self-Evident: A Santorum Music Video” premiering, here, today…
You’ll note that there is no Ron Paul video.
I understand why he appeals to young people in particular. He mostly tells the truth.
But the country is changing — we need new leadership.
For my generation, you can’t be a person who supports same-sex marriage and then support a candidate who equates homosexuality with bestiality. You can’t support aid for low-income communities and support a candidate who says that he doesn’t care about “very poor people”. You can’t support world peace and support a candidate who believes that George W. Bush should have let another terrorist attack through to keep us on our toes. You can’t support women and then endorse a war on their bodies. The list goes on.
I have no doubt that all four Republican Candidates are probably good people with mostly good intentions– and, to be sure, the process should play out — but I also have no doubt that none of them will ever be President.
The arbiters of the 24-hour news cycle also need to step up and stop inciting distractions.
Many things have been said about political pundits but I actually think that, collectively, their greatest offense is that in the effort to advance their respective agendas, they forget that sometimes it’s best to just shut up and listen.
Responsible voices on all sides of the ideological spectrum are tasked with drowning them out. Check out Blacking It Up, Up & Up and Variety’s Wilshire & Washington for examples of media ventures that are already doing just that and support independent-minded voices like them.
Ultimately, the truth is that we’ve grown so accustomed to mediocrity that we now greet failing institutions with apathy and accept that our leaders will prioritize grandstanding over governance.
We need to change the system, but in order to do that we need to be honest about how bad it’s gotten.
The good news?