Last Saturday November 7th we received the news that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected president and vice-president of the United States in the 2020 presidential election. This was widely celebrated by many in the US and all over the world. I was walking in my Brooklyn neighborhood while on the phone with my mother when the news broke and spontaneous applauses, screams, car honking, loud music and hugs exploded all around me. I cried as did many strangers I crossed my eyes with. I knew many of them had spent the last weeks working very hard for this result. Some spent days and nights calling voters about their voting rights, deadlines and options. Others travelled around the country to support the Biden-Harris campaign by knocking from door to door in states and districts where it is known their voters’ results can determine the election result. Others spent hours writing postcards to young people who were voting for the first time. Others volunteered at election polls. Others dedicated their free time to address misinformation and disinformation on social media.
I believe hardheartedly in the power of small actions and individual behaviors and changes. I get very heated and speak up passionately when someone questions the influence on the environment of me carrying a reusable bag, water bottle or coffee mug when I leave home. I truly believe these actions matter, especially when they are amplified by many and become the norm. However, I also strongly believe that we (I) need to do something else, something that could have a more direct and immediate impact on the policies that have the potential to change the world for a better place in the long term and for all.
This week I am writing this post as a call to action. To myself. I am not sharing my frustrations and successes. Nor any recommendations. I feel if I publicly write this I will commit to do more. I vote in every single election I have had the right to participate in and I have been doing so since I was 18. I have voted by mail probably more times than I have done it in person. I protest in the streets. I am a long time sustaining donor of three organizations that I believe contribute to equality and justice in this world. I engage in difficult conversations with friends and family. Yet, I feel this is very far from enough.
When George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police in May this year, people spoke up on social media. On the streets. With legislators. More people than before. More often than before. There was a constant message that silence about oppression equals complicity with the oppressor. I feel I did not engage enough in the social movements that followed this murder nor in the months and weeks before the 2020 US presidential election. Reading, reflecting and looking into my own behaviors, believes and attitudes, questioning them and committing to a change did feel insignificant because I was keeping it all to myself and my close friends and family.
I think we have many ways of being engaged more directly in politics, of being more political, less apolitical. The opportunities vary across countries and cultures, and not all of us feel comfortable with the same level of public exposure. I am reflecting on which ways these can be, which ones I feel I can engage in and which ones I am ready to commit to. When I came back to New York in early October after having spent two months in Spain, I found a surprising number of fascinating new initiatives in my neighborhood, at the doorsteps of my home. The BK Scrap Shuttle, a community compost shuttle; the Cooper Park Fridge, a community fridge with free food for all, and the NBKFreeStore, a free store in North Brooklyn for neighbors to give and take. All these are initiatives of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid, a community group of neighbors helping neighbors.
Is this politics? I certainly believe it is. I think engaging in any of these is doing politics. It is a statement about the world we want and it is taking action to build it. I told myself I would commit to signing up as a volunteer to one of these initiatives. In the hope that this will contribute to a longer-term change, as a loud cry for the world I want. Voting, donating and protesting has simply become not enough. Not for me. Not today.
How are you feeling these days about your role in society and how you can contribute to the world you want? What actions are you taking? We would love to hear you, to learn from you. Please share, we need and would benefit from some inspiration!