Tag: democracy

My Pledge to Democracy

At the end of every year, I produce a list of the films my husband and I watched in the previous 12 months. I provide a brief commentary for our Top 10 (or in the case of 2021’s list, our Top 15). 

Instead of overwhelming you with a list of dozens (hundreds?) of films at the end of the year, I thought for 2022, I would build a list throughout the year so you don’t have to wait. This would also give me the space to more thoughtfully review some of the films I think deserve attention — or at least those that captured mine.

As I mentioned in my Films Watched in 2021 post, it’s been a tradition for over a decade for David and I to watch a long-form film or film series over the course of the New Year’s Day holiday, and this year — 2022 — was no exception. We decided to watch The Battle of Chile, a documentary film made in 1973 in three 90-minute parts. 

I knew that the United States had backed a coup in Chile in the 1970s and that a dictatorial regime was installed in place of the democratically elected government and president. And that’s about where my knowledge ended.

Watching this film just days before the 1st anniversary of the insurrection of the U.S. Capitol was both fitting and harrowing. Before January 6, 2021, I was quite aware that our democracy was under attack, and over the years I have written several essays and podcast episodes on the importance of being engaged in political processes and in our precious democracy. (Elections Matter: How to Increase Voting, Inauguration, A Guide to Being Politically EngagedCan Garbage Unite our Divided Country?, Why I Love Voting and Why You Should, Too!, Laws for Animals: How to Engage in Politics without Being Cynical, to name a few.) I even made political engagement the theme of one of my vegan / animal protection conferences.

But on January 6, 2021, I saw — we all saw — how fragile democracy is and how it’s only as strong as its weakest individual, as Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently articulated in her pledge to democracy.

I watched in horror as men and women — provoked by this country’s own president — attacked one of the most fundamental tenets of democracy — the peaceful transfer of power — and persist in lies about election fraud where none had been and none has since been found.

I waited in vain for leaders to abandon such falsehoods once they witnessed police officers, elected officials, and fellow Americans suffer attacks, violence, threats, and even death. 

No such change came, and indeed, the lies have become even more fixed and firm. And our democracy remains in peril.

To be sure, there are differences between the Chilean far right overthrowing their democratically elected government and the divisive state of our country today. First of all, they had a major foreign power backing them (the United States) and a military that acted on its own — independent of the constitutional government.

But there are chilling similarities that every American will recognize in this story and that every American needs to see. We must never forget January 6th, 2021, the five people who were killed, and the dozens who were injured and harmed, and we must resist the temptation to naïvely and complacently believe that such an egregious act could never happen again.

Moreover, as ordinary citizens, we must be vigilant against any duplicitous measures that seek to deny facts, distort truth, and chip away at democratic norms, systems, and laws. 

How?

  • By engaging in the very democracy that has been so hard-won and hard-kept. 
  • By exercising the very rights that so many have fought and died for. 
  • By remembering the demos in democracy: the people
  • And by rejecting cynicism and divisiveness. 

This isn’t someone else’s task. It’s ours. It’s mine. It’s yours.

Vote.

Get involved.

Know your representatives — not just federally but regionally and locally.

Visit your local town or city hall. Or your state or federal Capitol. (That’s David and I on a recent visit to our state Capitol in Sacramento!) 

Financially contribute to candidates you believe in.

Volunteer.

Use your voice.

Know history.

Get up, show up, and speak up.

Meet duplicity with honesty, stupidity with wisdom, ignorance with truth, and cruelty with kindness.

And watch The Battle of Chile

The amount of footage and the breadth and depth of the storytelling are enough to justify the high esteem with which it is still regarded 50 years later. 

Why I Love Voting (and Why You Should, Too)!

Did you know that the U.S. trails most developed countries in voter turnout? Only about 50% of Americans show up to vote during presidential elections, which means even less during the midterms. That’s appalling to me. 

I’ve been lucky enough to not have to fight for the privilege to vote, but I still don’t take it for granted. Citizens who are eligible to vote but don’t because they complain the system is broken are squandering one of the most precious features of democracy: the peaceful exchange of power determined by the will of the people. People. Citizens. Politics. You can’t have one without the other. 

The word “politics” comes from the Greek word politikos, meaning “of citizens, pertaining to public life.”

If we’re not actively engaged in making sure the outcome is in our favor, we have no right to complain about how politics affects us—or the animals. (And by the way reading news headlines, arguing with people on Facebook, or getting depressed while you scroll through your Twitter feed does not an engaged citizen make. In fact, the more I avoid these things, the more effective and productive I am!) 

You don’t get more votes the more outraged you are. You still get just one. So step away from the headlines. Step away from social media. Take a deep breath. And vote. The animals — the least privileged, the most vulnerable citizens of our world — need us to show up for them!

[Tweet “Reading headlines and arguing with people on social media doesn’t mean you’re engaged. VOTE!”]

If you can do more than that, great! 

  • Encourage friends, family, and followers to vote! Encourage them to vote for animal-friendly candidates and ballot initiatives.
  • Phone bank! A number of us get together each week to call voting citizens of California to ensure the passage of Proposition 12.
  • Canvass door-to-door. Get involved with organizations like Democracy Action.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polls on election day.
  • Check out my Political Guide for Animal Issues for more ways to get involved and STAY involved even after elections! 

PHONE BANKING PARTY! MAKING CALLS TO VOTERS FOR THE ANIMALS
It took no time at all to connect with the Prop 12 leaders to get set up to phone bank from the comfort of our home. We can do it any time throughout the day now, but we like to make a party of it! We each bring food, we have our laptops and phones, and we sit in different parts of the house making calls for animals. Couldn’t be easier! (Contact me if you would like to do the same!)

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Can you be a perfect vegan?

Let’s be clear: there is no such thing as a licensed, certified vegan, and if perfection and purity are what you’re trying to attain in a world that is by its nature imperfect, then I’m afraid you’ll be gravely disappointed.

Compassion is the goal. Veganism is the way to get there. If we forget this, not only do we miss the entire point of what it means to be vegan, we will also lead a frustrating existence filled with anger and judgement.

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Take Back Your Power. The Animals Need You!

When someone says that they’re disenchanted with or depressed by politics, I can only assume they’re on the sidelines rather in the trenches. Politics is not separate from who we are as citizens; we are affected—all of us, animals included—by politics, so to be cynical about politics means you’re not owning your power. 

The word “politics” comes from the Greek word politikos, meaning “of citizens, pertaining to public life.”

We are public citizens, and if we’re not actively engaged in making sure the outcome is in our favor, we have no right to complain about how politics affects us—or animals. And reading news headlines, arguing with people on Facebook, or getting depressed while you scroll through your Twitter feed does not an engaged citizen make. 

So today I’m urging you to own your power as a public citizen. I have a Political Guide for Animal Issues that can help. It’s simple, really. Know who your local, state, and federal representatives are. Engage with them. Talk to them. Thank them for passing animal-friendly legislation. Urge them to reject legislation that harms animals. Tell them they lost your vote if they continue to support legislation that harms animals. Be involved in electing animal-friendly candidates. That doesn’t mean waiting for the vegan candidate! Most animal-friendly legislation is passed by non-vegans. And finally, don’t underestimate the power of local political action! Work with city officials to pass animal-friendly legislation in your own city. These local officials may one day be state senators, federal representatives, or even president of the United States. 

I’m Not Leaving This Country

The night of the 2016 presidential election, I made a tearful but sincere vow to meet every word and action that lies ahead with fierce compassion, love, non-violence, and inclusiveness. Nothing good is built on fear — neither the fear that is real for me nor the fear that is clearly real for others. I did not vote for this administration, and although it’s tempting to disavow this country and to disengage from politics, neither of those are options for me. Even though I’m afraid for all of the humans and non-humans who will be negatively impacted by harmful policies that were promised during the campaign, I’m also grateful for the democratic process and vow to become even more engaged in it. I think the greatest gift this man will give us is unity against tyranny.

I vow to find the best within myself and the best within others and to stand for everything that is good and true in this world. Today, I am mourning the hopes that have been dashed, but I’ve also got a lot of work to do to make this world a better place for all, and I ask that you join me in holding a space for both sadness and compassion. Fierce compassion.

[Tweet “We can’t expect others to act from their highest selves if we don’t act from ours.”]

There is reason for hope. (Read why the past gives me hope for the future.) There is always hope, but having hope isn’t a license to be idle. Action is our only way through; hope is the light that guides us. In this blog post, I talk about the local actions I’ve taken that I’m most proud of and how we must continue to be a voice for compassion. One way to do that is to participate in the democratic process that is the foundation of this country. That means showing up, speaking up, and engaging with elected officials who we must urge to act from the highest that is in them.

And we can’t do this without acting from the highest that is in us.

[Tweet “I vow to find the best in others and to stand for everything that is good and true in this world.”]

Democratic Actions for Animals

I love this country. I love that we have inalienable rights. I love that we can vote. I love that we can take part in the democratic process. It’s not perfect; there is a lot of work to be done, but I love being part of that work. I love being a citizen — in the broadest sense of the word.

There’s a lot of skepticism in our country right now; we spend a lot of time being critical — as we should — but personally, I feel best when I’m being critical and active. And one of the best ways we can do this is by getting involved in local causes.

I remember a time when I was embarrassed that I couldn’t tell you which neighborhood district I lived in or who my district council member was, but I aspired to become more involved. Today, my civic participation pales compared to many people who are more involved than I am, but I try to make my voice heard, especially when it comes to how my city relates to non-human animals.

Two of the things I’m most proud being involved in is stopping slaughter hobbyists from killing animals in the backyards of Oakland (see news story below about our efforts) and speaking on behalf of elephants when the Oakland City Council took up the issue of banning the bullhook, especially by companies who bring the circus to town.

 

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