The other day a “friend” on Facebook wrote that she was not going to vote in the upcoming Presidential election because the choices were so poor. While I understand her dismay, I don’t agree with her decision to not vote.
I frequently tell my students that yoga is a very slow process. It is a game of millimeters and milliseconds. If you practice every day you will see progress. Maybe after a year you’ll be able to touch your foot in Janu Sirsasana or hold your Virabhadrasana II for 30 seconds. Or you’ll be able to sit in meditation for seven minutes instead of five.
Civic engagement is the same. For forty years, whether I believed 100% in a candidate or not, I voted. Call me a sentimentalist but I believe it is an important way to be heard…to matter. Like everything else that matters this commitment to participate takes practice.
Beginning the process isn’t too difficult UNLESS you have been subjected to unfair registration laws…a reality that seems to be slowly changing. First you register and by doing so vote on a party. It can be Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian…even Working Families. You can also decide that you are Independent and be outside the traditional “system.” I did that once…voting for John Anderson against Ronald Regan and incumbent Jimmy Carter.
When a primary or a general election is held you vote. You walk into a polling place and mark your ballot. Yes, there might be a wait but remember that citizens of dozens of countries don’t have the same rights you do.
Participation is more than just voting. It’s about staying informed and debating with others. We’ve gotten scared to debate and that’s part of our problem. There is an old adage that friends should not discuss religion or politics. I couldn’t disagree more. Debate begins with respect for the opponent’s right to have and voice an opinion.
Recently I had a discussion with my new friend Chris about bias and the press. Chris thinks the press has a liberal slant and I believe that while each individual organization is biased they are so in their own ways. Our conversation was heated and moderated by two other participants but in the end we continued a very lovely meal and shared a beer.
YogaCity NYC’s editor Cynthia Kling and I had several discussions recently about the surging Bernie Sanders campaign. We didn’t agree on several points yet every day we were able to do our work together.
In fact one of the things we discussed was that Bernie Sander’s campaign was a direct result of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. It took five years for that movement to move from Zuccotti Park to Philadelphia. And, if people, especially young people, keep believing in that messages of that movement eventually the country will turn that way. But, they can’t give up and they can’t remove themselves from participation and do it.
One could argue that the Trump Campaign is also the result of a long series of changes beginning with the abolition of slavery and the endowment of voting rights for people of color and women. This series of events began a very slow process of marginalization for white men many whom a century later are angry at what appears to be an elimination of their omnipotent power.
It took more than 100 years but as the century began we elected America’s first African-American president and we are on the precipice of electing our nation’s first woman commander-in-chief.
In this era of instant coffee and communication we tend to think that posts on Facebook will quickly change things but the truth is that real change is the result of sustained effort (where have we heard that one before?)
One of the great stories of Shiva is called “Churning the Milky Ocean.” It is an epic tale of the forces of good vs. evil fighting in a tug of war for the elixir of immortality. The Devas on one side and the Asuras on the other pulling the great serpent Vasuki churning the milky ocean around Mandara mountain. Sometimes the Asuras win a battle and sometimes the Devas do. Eventually though, after many trials, the Devas, the good guys, win the prize.
So, this year take hold of one side of rope, put in effort and hang on tight. Pull that lever with all your might.