Fresnans gathered to hear Bernie Sanders speak at Fresno Fairgrounds, May, 2016. Photo by Howard Watkins.

Change and Compromise Through Grassroots Collaboration

By J. D. Montague

If the general election’s apathetic turnout is any indication of local political interest, then we have a major problem facing us for the future of our local government, as well as the health and prosperity of our community.  With the impending doom of climate change related drought, the continuation of right-wing politics and neo-liberal lies, the under-regulated farming and agricultural industry, alongside the expansion of urban landscapes, pose a major problem for the sustainability of life in the Central Valley. More than ever we need to create an active, grass-roots political movement that bases decisions on moral values towards our fellow humans and the environment, dethrones the dominant two-party system, creates an atmosphere that promotes education for everyone, and works on creating jobs and policy that improves the infrastructure and sustainability for all residents of the Valley.

This will require a collaboration between all political dissidents who are tired of the status quo that the two-party system has provided for us. This includes non-party members, independents, Green Party members, Libertarians, moderates, and any other non-conformists to the traditional political system to band together without the blinding power of idealism. In an election year where the two least liked candidates in U.S. history were running, it seems that the two major third parties would gain a large percentage of votes from those who are morally opposed to what the dominant parties presented as legitimate choices. But they don’t. This is because the access to these ideas is represented by fringe groups who are demonized by the corporate media and their over-funded political machines. And to further complicate things, the groups that do fight against the political norms usually disagree on minor details that could be resolved through compromise and general moderate and logical reasoning.

To change a system that is so ingrained in the popular corporate political discourse, we need to keep ideals as end goals, while recognizing the realities of the system and the costly means it would take to change them. And when we talk of costly means, those are the costs of our personal, and possibly, professional lives. This is the roadblock to true political change: self-sacrifice. In a society that promotes individualism, the consumption of material goods, and the pursuit of endless pleasure, there seems to be little chance of a local popular rising that doesn’t focus on these goals. This general election is a prime example of this sentiment—although the Electoral College did play a significant role in this outcome—because we can see the interests of individual gain supersede the interests of environmental protection, the end of profiting from imperial wars, the inherent rights of all people and workers, and the separation of corporate and political interests. When confronted with these moral atrocities, how can an individual react in support of any of these ideas without a larger cultural discourse driving that conviction? The optimistic side of me says it can’t, at least in the long term.

To promote this change, we need to collaborate and push an outreach campaign that shows the political alternatives of the two-party system; that there can be a popular democratic government that focuses on the interests of all the local community and its enduring longevity. And this is where the self sacrifice comes in. There need to be people outside of the cyber world informing and recruiting the public for real local change. This is the only means to start a larger cultural shift throughout the country in a direction of tolerance and communal principals which should already be inherent in our supposedly civilized species.

These efforts would need to expand into colleges where there is a sympathetic younger electorate; there would need to be energy put into the recruitment of all working-class people spanning the economic and ethnic playing field; rural areas can no longer be ignored because of scarcity of votes; and extreme party platforms should be secondary to the basic right to vote as non-party members based on moral and ethical values. And again, we end back at the root of it: self-sacrifice. But self sacrifice for the communal good, rather than the interests of individuality. Don’t mistake this with the right to be an individual in a society of others, rather, think of it through the terms of America’s “self- made man.” We are communal, built to help each other in trying times, but systems developed by opportunistic and morally deficient humans have succeeded with the message of self-interest and the collection of material wealth. We need to actively fight against and reverse the goals of our political aristocracy to create an environment in which the people are the true voice of the government rather than the puppet manipulated by its political master.

This is the foundation of a governmental democracy that will actually affect our day to day lives; where we get to choose what is in our self-interest and the interests of those we live with. This is the time to begin a real movement which will have long term success in the local political arena. Only then can we begin to focus on the larger picture which will change the Federal government in the direction of the ideals this nation was founded on and proudly fought for by its zealous citizens (even if the reasons were perverted, masked by misinformation). It is this zealotry for basic human rights that needs to be refocused into an active voting public that doesn’t forget about the news between nine and five. And one that is willing to sacrifice for a cause that may never be realized in their lifetime, but is for the betterment of our communal family and the duration and peace of our species.

It will take all of us to do this extraordinary feat in which all the cards are stacked against us, but we can no longer wait four years to be politically active and expect that one vote to fundamentally change the way we live our lives and the advancement of our proceeding generations. We must stay active and vigilant daily, always questioning what we hear from those in power, and creating a political community that is willing to work together and compromise, rather than continue on the path of self-division and societal implosion. It is now we must turn out politically in the real world and no longer think that a post on social media is equivalent to a protest on the streets. Now is the time to dig deep and commit to our moral and political foundations. And then act.

*****

James Montague has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from CSU Fresno. He is a teacher, musician, and writer (poems and essays). He hopes to become more politically active through writing and encouraging others to use their own political voices.

 

 

  • The Community Alliance is a monthly newspaper that has been published in Fresno, California, since 1996. The purpose of the newspaper is to help build a progressive movement for social and economic justice.

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