Working towards peace and sustainability

Voting and Participation in Making Change

Unless you’ve been hibernating deep in a cave for many months, you’re surely aware that we are in an electoral season. You also certainly recognize that there are sharp differences between the candidates and thus the stakes are very high.

We remind you at the get-go that Peaceworks is an educational non-profit and we never endorse, support or oppose candidates for office. We do, however, encourage active citizenship, which includes voting. We hope that all reading this whom are eligible are registered to vote. If you aren’t, or if you’ve moved to another county and need to update your registration, February 17 is the deadline to register so you can vote in Missouri’s March 15 Presidential Primary.

To learn more about the candidates, click on: POSITIONS

Peaceworks was founded on the principles of participatory democracy and grassroots engagement. We see voting as an important part of citizenship, but only one part of many. If you, like us, see critical issues impacting our lives — including climate change, war and peace, economic justice and human rights, just for starters — we hope you agree that we should take every opportunity available to move things forward: increase the peace, correct injustices and heal the Earth. Voting is fast and easy and there’s really no good argument that we’ve heard not to devote the few minutes it takes to go cast your ballot.

This said, voting is to citizenship as recycling is to sustainable living. It’s necessary, but it’s certainly not sufficient. It’s basically the least we can do, and much more is needed. Happily, we can vote for a few minutes, two or three days a year and still have more than 360 days left when we don’t need to go vote and can engage in other forms of citizenship.

Of course, the electoral process involves more than voting. If you feel drawn to a candidate, you can support their campaign by volunteering and/or contributing financially. You can engage friends, neighbors, family, co-workers and others to encourage them to support the candidate. You can also use social media to boost awareness of their candidacy and issue stands.

This sort of grassroots participation is more important now than ever, as it’s a partial antidote to the pernicious role of big money in politics. But, again, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
Also critical is helping to build and support civil society groups that educate and advocate. What is possible in electoral politics, or in the legislative process, is, at least in part, a function of what the people know, or think they know. Issue-oriented groups, including Peaceworks, have key roles to play in creating a political climate that enables meaningful change. This includes countering the self-serving myths promoted by climate change deniers, war mongers, etc. It also involves opening people’s eyes to the potential for a brighter, more sustainable and just future.

There are dozens of roles one might embrace in the social change process. Making issue concerns visible through demonstrations is important, but so is reaching out to fellow citizens through phonebanks, petition drives, door-to-door canvasses, and more. Activist groups can raise issue concerns via public meetings, speakers, films, classes and more. It takes activist volunteers to put such events together. Then, our elected officials need to hear from us, and letters to officials can also serve as letters to the editor.

Our sincere hope is that 2016 will be a year of positive new beginnings. Hope, however, is not enough. We need to vote, but this, too, is not sufficient. What is really needed—indeed sorely needed—is sustained, activist engagement. We invite and encourage your participation in our work, as well as in the broader movement. Join us, please.