Our Heroes Prepared Us for This.
There are mornings when I admit it’s hard to get out of bed. This past Tuesday was one of those mornings.
Maybe it was because Amy Coney Barrett had just been confirmed the night before to replace Justice Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court, in a rushed process that violated not only internal Senate rules, but also Majority Leader McConnell’s own precedent that a Supreme Court justice should not be replaced during an election year.
Maybe it was because another Black man Walter Wallace, who suffered from mental health issues, had been repeatedly shot and killed by police in Philadelphia in front of his mother, the day before.
And I’m sure it didn’t help that my toddler woke up screaming in the middle of the night and wouldn’t go back to sleep.
We are all experiencing stress and weariness about the state of our nation and the pandemic. And like most everyone I know, I am ready for 2020 to be over, and for us to be able to turn the page on this dark chapter in our country’s history.
It’s in these darkest moments that I look for inspiration and encouragement, to keep from giving into despondency and dismay.
And I find it from my heroes.
I find strength from the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who could not only do more push-ups at the age of 82 than I can at 42, but who also blazed a trail for gender justice and the equal treatment of women.
I find resiliency from the late John Lewis, who was arrested over 40 times in his lifetime of service to justice and equality for Black Americans, including the right to vote.
And I find resolve from Susan B. Anthony who said: “Someone struggled for your right to vote. Use it.”
Already, millions of Americans have already voted, despite waiting in line for four, five, or six hours. This election is on track to reach historic levels of turnout despite voter suppression and a pandemic – that alone is a triumph of our democracy.
If you are eligible to vote but have not done so yet, make a plan now at www.IWillVote.com.
While casting our ballot is essential, voting alone is not enough.
Our work continues on November 4, regardless of the outcome of this election.
We must repair the damage that’s been done to our democracy. That includes ending voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering, reforming the judiciary, strengthening our system of checks and balances, and passing new ethics and conflict of interest rules for the 21st century.
We must rebuild the rights and protections for marginalized communities that have been eviscerated by the current federal administration. And we must continue expanding those protections to move our nation closer to what we aspire to be. That means, as a start, restoring the Voting Rights Act and passing legislation like the Equality Act, the Justice in Policing Act, and comprehensive immigration reform.
And we must realign the values of our nation to point to justice, compassion, inclusion, and fairness. That means neutralizing hate and disinformation online, confronting organizations and groups that advance white supremacist and nationalist agendas, and combatting domestic terrorism. It means advancing strategic and impactful public education campaigns that bridge differences across our society, celebrate diversity and pluralism, and humanize differences.
There is no other choice but to fight for what we love, what we dream of, and for each other. Not when there is so much on the line.
Just before her death, Susan B. Anthony said: “Failure is impossible.”
Heroes, like all people, are not perfect, and their legacies are complicated. For example, while Anthony was an abolitionist and considered an ally by many of the Black civil rights leaders of her time, she was also part of white suffragette leadership that accommodated racist forces in order to advance political goals.
While Anthony never lived to see the adoption of the 19th amendment 100 years ago granting women the right to vote, she maintained faith in the power of regular people to move our nation ever closer to becoming a true democracy.
I share that faith in our power to move us closer to our collective ideals of justice. And I know that we are strongest when move together, support each other, and lift one another up.
Before this election, I am asking all of you not just to vote, but to commit to the work ahead. Because regardless of the ultimate results of this election, the American project of creating a truly pluralistic and inclusive democracy remains unfinished. While none of us can do that work alone, we will only succeed if we all engage.
Join GLAD in the never-ending project of ensuring that our nation’s story is one of ever expanding inclusion, equality, and justice for all.