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HOOSER: To those of you too busy to make a difference

It’s time to get off the couch. Summer vacation is over. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to the task at hand — helping to make our community, our world, and our planet a better place.

Ballots will begin arriving in our mailboxes in about two weeks. On Nov. 8 the results will be announced and there will, of course, be winners and losers. As is always the case, some of these races will be determined by literally only a handful of votes.

To those who think that none of this matters, that the fix is already in, that voting and being involved in the “system” is a waste of time — you are wrong. I understand how and why you may feel this way, but you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

I’ve spent the past 28 years living and working in the “system,” and know without any doubt whatsoever that individual voices and actions matter. I’ve seen it up close and personal. When individuals join together, united in collective action, they can move mountains.

By failing to take the time to just open the darn envelope and check a box or two you, my friend, are part of the problem.

I’ve seen good, solid, community-based candidates of high integrity win and lose by just a handful of votes. And I’ve seen major policy issues likewise succeed or fail by only a single vote.

Ditto to when you are too busy to send off a simple email to your state legislator or councilmember, supporting or opposing issues that are before them. By saying nothing you are in fact empowering the status quo.

I get it that you are busy, that life is hard, the kids gotta get to school, you gotta get to work, and bills are due on the first. I get it. Been there, done that.

But cry me a river. Filling out a ballot that is mailed directly to your house and returning it in a postage-paid envelope is really not that hard. Cranking out a sentence or two in an email, signing a petition or leaving a short voice-mail message with your elected official all take literally less than 2 minutes to do.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Let this adage sink in, and never forget the truth exposed by these 12 words.

Please, take the time to be involved and take ownership of your civic responsibility.

One side of me wants to apologize for beating up on you for being too busy to be involved. The other side of me wants to shake you even harder because of your neglect.

But there’s a whole lot at stake. We have people living under bridges and in cars because they cannot afford the astronomical rents. Climate change is real, the oceans are rising, and the storms are only getting stronger and stronger. We are losing our mountain streams. Our beaches and special places have been monetized and no longer ours to enjoy in peace with friends and family.

We can do so much better. The challenges faced by our community and our planet are not intractable. We are surrounded by enormous wealth and abundance. It is only the lack of political will that holds us back, not the lack of resources needed to fix things.

Political will comes via community demands, expectations and accountability. Elected government officials will provide the leadership and action demanded of them by those who elect them to their positions of power and influence.

If you’re not sure who to vote for, seek guidance from friends and organizations who are involved and perhaps more informed. If you are not sure about a particular race, leave it blank.

There is no shortage of advocacy organizations that post their voting recommendations on social media and who promote “calls to action” that give clear, sometimes “one-click” options for you to let your voice be heard on important issues of the day. If your core values can be described as putting people and the planet above profits, you’re welcome to sign up to receive my weekly email missives, voting recommendations and action alerts at https://policy-and-politics.mailchimpsites.com.

Regardless of your ideological bent, get involved, please. We will all benefit from the increased dialogue and inevitable civic synergy that results.

To those of you already involved and engaged in policy and politics, thank you, and do more.

Give more to candidates who you support. Give them financial support, show up and help them hold signs at the side of the road. Go with them to knock on doors in the neighborhood. Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and networks. Encourage all to take action, get involved and make a difference.

There, my rant for today is done. Now let’s go out and change the world.

•••

Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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