Comfort vs Convenience, Me vs We
A couple of things happened this week, at the federal level of our government and while they may seem unrelated, to me they concern the same thing; whether we as a society seek to serve ourselves or all of us. Will we choose to comfort those who need it, or do we put our own convenience first? Are the rights in our country meant to serve me or we?
It was reported that Justice Gorsuch refused to wear a mask during proceedings and Justice Sotomayer has been working remotely as a result. Justice Sotomayer has type I diabetes, so it is important that she take extra precautions to not be exposed to covid. This resulted in a lot of flack on social media about how selfish it was for Gorsuch to not wear a mask, and then Roberts, Sotomayer, and Gorsuch all put out statements denying that Gorsuch was asked to wear a mask and refused.
What I don’t get, is why did anyone have to ask him? Why isn’t he choosing to be a responsible member of society, by protecting his fellow colleagues, by default? A lot of people will debate whether there should be mandates or not. Our judicial branch has been debating madates surrounding social responsibility a lot in the last 2 years. Should our government mandate social responsibility? My question is, why do they have to? Why are we so selfish in this day and age, that people don’t just voluntarily wear masks and get the vaccine? How many people refusing to get the vaccine, have already been vaccinated for polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and more? How many of these same people are not scientific experts and have never questioned any medicine or treatment their doctors gave them, or the preservative-laden food they’ve eaten, but now question this vaccine because talking heads told them they should?
When I go into a grocery store, I notice every person with a mask below their nose, or not wearing a mask at all. It’s the opposite of Mr. Roger’s “look for the helpers” call.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers
I see people who don’t care about their community. They may say they do, but their actions speak louder than their words. The same goes for Justice Gorsuch. The Justices on the Supreme Court can put out all the statements they want, to assuage any perception that there is ranker amongst them. His actions to not wear a mask is what matters, whether anyone asked him to wear one or not. He’s not a child, and no one should have to tell you to put a mask on, in a pandemic involving an airborne virus. Even if Justice Sotomayer wasn’t immune suppressed, as a country, we have had the ability to reduce the spread and save lives since this pandemic started. More lives have been lost, not because of the virus, but because of individual selfishness.
Another thing that happened this week is that 52 US Senators prevented equal access to the ballot for American citizens. This can be painted in many ways.
But let’s make sure we agree on what was in the H.R.5746 — Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act. Just suggesting that will make people roll their eyes. This is an issue of comfort or convenience. But the thing is, if we don’t take our responsibility to pay attention to our democracy seriously, people who are showing up and paying attention, will take all the power and destroy our democracy.
So this is what was in the bill:
- Expands voter registration (e.g., automatic and same-day registration) and voting access (e.g., vote-by-mail and early voting).
- Limits removing voters from voter rolls.
- Establishes Election Day as a federal holiday.
- Establishes a new criminal offense for conduct (or attempted conduct) to corruptly hinder, interfere with, or prevent another person from registering to vote or helping someone register to vote.
- Requires states to conduct post-election audits for federal elections.
- Prohibits mid-decade redistricting (gerrymandering).
- Prohibits campaign spending by foreign nationals and establishes an alternative campaign funding system for certain federal offices.
- Requires preclearance — the process of receiving preapproval from the Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before making legal changes that would affect voting rights. This would prevent any state-level voting laws from being enacted that would violate the civil rights of any citizen to vote.
- Includes provisions related to federally protected activities at polling places and voting access on tribal lands.
Not one thing in that list is partisan, but all of that was bundled into a fight of who was making a power grab, Democrats or Republicans. Were Democrats attempting a power grab, by fighting to make it accessible for every citizen to vote? Did Republicans make a power grab by stopping this legislation? My question is, where are the rest of us in all of this?
I saw this on Twitter the other day:
If anyone takes the time to read this, please don’t attempt to find who tweeted and quote tweeted this. I don’t want either of them bullied for what so many people say and think every day. I grabbed it to make a point. This is a common feeling in our privileged country. People are so proud to be American, but how many Americans actually want to participate in the great experiment of our democracy?
I grew up in an academic household. My Aunt could speak 6 languages, taught English as a second language, and would put my cousin and me through school when we were on break. This included geography, using the map on the back of the door of my grandparents' back room in their house. We had to watch the evening news every night, pick 2 topics and write 2-page papers on why we thought they were important or interesting. Some of the lessons I loved. I can still make a paper flower. Others, I dreaded. I sucked at geography. But I remember it all, and I was so fortunate that she taught me to pay attention.
I’m not looking for everyone to be like me. I have a degree in political science, thanks to my Aunt’s dilgent teachings. I do think that people are under some sort of assumption that our government should just run itself. We pay taxes, what more do we have to do, to get a government that works? Right?
Wrong. This country was founded on the idea that it would be by the people and for the people. It wasn’t meant to be by a few people, who spent their entire careers sitting in one office, making deals that benefit them and the people around them. People were meant to serve the public and then go back to their private lives, and someone else would serve. For the rest of us, we are meant to pay attention to our elected officials and tell them how we want to be represented. If they are doing their job, they will listen to us and all constituents, doing what the majority want done.
It’s on citizens to do the work though. We must make sure we do the things that it takes to be informed and participating members of the electorate. The problem is, people are busy. I get it. Are we too busy to make a phone call and tell our Senators we want voting rights? Are we too busy to go to a website and check our voter registration, or polling place, or request a ballot, or vote?
Democracy takes work. It’s not just a one time act. It’s a living breathing thing, and it will rot to the core if we don’t ensure that it is kept healthy. Because I’m a civics nerd, I volunteer with candidates and organizations a lot. The work is primarily to introduce voters to a candidate, or remind them of an election. We spend a lot of time reminding people of deadlines so they can go vote, and offering resources to help people cast their ballots. A fellow volunteer and I made a short and quick youtube series, which we call 5 Minutes for Democracy. This is our way of helping Americans break down the process into 5 tasks that voters can give just 5 minutes a day, to make our democracy part of their lives. These tasks include:
- Checking Your Voter Registration
- Make Contacting Your Representatives Easy!
- Check your representative’s record
- Learn about your candidates
If every eligible voter in America did those things, and made participating in our democracy a core to American culture, we could transform this country. We all have a choice to make, every day. Will we choose to care for the rights and needs of others, or only for our own conveniences? Will we choose me or we?
It’s been just over 60 years since the youngest President in our history, was inaugurated. I leave you with some quotes from John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. May they inspire you toward democracy.
United there is little we cannot do, in a host of cooperative venues. Divided there is little we can do.
If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.
Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.