Okay. We can take a deep breath. Exhale. Close our eyes and even smile…for a few minutes. Many people worked long and hard to achieve this moment. While we applaud the end of the Bush dynasty, it’s clear that the US Empire lives on.
With eyes wide open we need to face the reality that this election, even with its favorable outcome, signals the need for an even greater effort to force a significant change in our governmental policies. The Syracuse Peace Council believes that voting can never be the primary vehicle for social change. We shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the most important political moment in our lives occurs in the voting booth. Suggesting that it is buys into the mythology designed to disempower us and force us to accept limited progress toward peace, social justice and genuine democracy.
Our current economic and social system relegates too many to the electoral sidelines. We need to demand more of ourselves and of those who claim to represent us.
This is particularly important now that we have a President who claims to be “on our side.” The election of an African-American President is historic. This is a sign of progress, but it is as limited as the two-party system itself. The Syracuse Peace Council believes that democracy means much more than occasional voting, particularly when our political system is stacked so heavily in favor of powerful corporations and the wealthy.
The multiple crises facing this country, and the world, cannot be adequately addressed within the conventional political, economic, or social systems. Conventional political wisdom – Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative – is deeply rooted in the denial of the severity of the crises we face and hostile to institutional change. For example, we cannot forget that in 2006, US citizens elected a Democratic Congress on their promise to end the war in Iraq. They did not end the war, and Obama’s current call to transfer US combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan will not end either occupation.
We strongly encourage those who fought hard for Obama’s election to maintain that energy and determination to actively work for real change in our communities. It is up to us, people at the grassroots, to make it happen.
We call on President Obama to renounce the Executive powers so abused by the Bush administration and to restore our civil liberties by pushing a repeal of the Patriot Act. We call on him to stop allowing US soldiers or “private” armies to be used in the quest for global corporate domination. Obama declared himself to be an agent of change and cutting the military budget is key to our ability to finance necessary reforms. These are high priorities on the long “to do” list left in the wake of eight years of disastrous Bush-Cheney policy.
We also call on our newly elected Representative, Dan Maffei, to hold a series of town meetings before taking office. He needs to hear from all of us. While we have appreciated his appearance at Peace Council events in recent years, we must press him to ensure that he represents our concerns.
What’s crucial today, and what we encourage everyone to take seriously, is the long-term project of preparing for the dramatically different world that is on the horizon – a world in which an already unconscionable inequality will expand; a world facing ecological collapse; a world in which existing institutions will likely prove useless in helping us restructure our lives; a world in which we will need to empower ourselves by working together to develop the basic skills for sustaining ourselves and our communities.
Creating peace and social justice, establishing true democracy and building a fair economic system require many different kinds of actions, from voting to nonviolent direct action, from workplace organizing to consumer boycotts, from marches and demonstrations to vigils and civil disobedience, from protesting to creating alternatives.
Voting is just the beginning. Using your time and energy to advance progressive policies on issues is more important. Continuing to talk about the radical change necessary to build a different world is more important. Your voice is more important. Use it. Act.