Yesterday was primary day here in Illinois, which somehow both resonated harder and felt more discordant given the devastating Supreme Court ruling this past Friday. Voting is one of our core rights and responsibilities in a democratic republic such as this. And I have heard many, many calls since the ruling that voting is not enough. Both of these are true. Voting remains a baseline way to participate in our common governance. Choosing not to vote can be a legitimate choice within the system because it communicates a disconnection with and disenfranchisement from the system. We should be careful and strategic about whether we vote and for whom we vote in national, state, and local elections. And we must do so much more.
Speaking our minds in the public sphere through protests, publications, and social media keeps a consistent discourse going about what we and others need – in this case, about the need for abortion services as healthcare.
Donating funds when possible allows the work of civil society to go on. As abortion services are cut off in some states, donations help providers serve those who were cut off in another state.
Staying in touch with our representatives keeps them in tune with what we and our neighbors want. Calling and meeting with local trustees, state officials, and US Representatives and Senators holds them accountable to our needs.
Turning others out to vote through calling, texting, and canvassing multiplies our own vote and, in the context of this disheartening ruling, can serve to energize ourselves and others to reinvest in elections as one component of our change strategy.
Strikes – both specific and general – wield our power as workers to provide or withhold our labor. This power can stop specific corporations, specific sectors, or the entire economy from functioning, depending on the scale of the disruption.
Civil disobedience also prevents the smooth functioning of society and dramatizes the issues to engage a wide swath of people in social movements. And both strikes and civil disobedience have been and will be important parts of how we stand up for reproductive and other rights.
I vote, I speak out, I donate, I meet with elected officials, and I help turn others out to vote. I have never participated in a strike or civil disobedience. I know that others go further and advocate for violent opposition to the state. This moment requires all of us to reconsider what we have done to this point and whether we might go further.
This moment also asks us to consider the importance of moving from individual to collective actions. My individual decision about whether or not to vote – and the values that inform the candidates for whom I will vote – is only made stronger by discussing in a group the importance and values connected with voting. My individual decision to donate money or time is strengthened by discussing those decisions with others and inviting them to do the same. The same is true of speaking and meeting with our elected representatives. And some of these leverage points can only be accomplished in a group – protest, strikes, and civil disobedience being three key examples of this.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade is not unique in our history. We have had advances and retractions of rights before. But it is one key moment in our current story. It represents a key retraction that could move further and further if we don’t stop it. It represents a point when we could choose to react and push ourselves and our society toward greater freedom. And it represents a point when we could choose to do nothing and allow ourselves to sink back into a society of greater restrictions and lesser rights.
What are you willing to do? What am I? And most important, what are we willing to do together?
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