I just hung up on another perfectly nice volunteer asking me to send money to a political cause I wholly support. I also dumped a half dozen unopened letters from worthwhile organizations into the recycle bin. I’ve contributed to some of these groups for over 40 years.
Each day, I move 45 to 50 emails into the trash without even looking at them. For a while I felt bad. Now I am just plain angry. I believe in social activism: “Feed the hungry, support the week, help the suffering, honor all people ...” It’s a basic tenet of Christianity.
I believe in citizen activism as well. I’ve registered students to vote, marched in Washington, and helped the League of Women Voters put out voter guides and hold candidate forums. But today political overload is killing my enthusiasm for the democratic process. It seems the more money we put into the election process, the worse the government becomes.
I have a hard time believing all those self-serving repetitive ads make any difference? But they do, and I’m told the negative mud-slinging ones are effective. Why, and what does that say about the American public?
On the other hand, I just witnessed an inspiring example of civic action. In just a few short days, a community came together to stop the paving of one of North Georgia most scenic roads. A young woman and her friends organized a highly effective protest through word of mouth, email and Facebook, and a project that was already underway was literally halted in its tracks.
Then these creative people took it once step further. They turned their protest into art. They created a video from scenes taken along that road and submitted it to the county commissioners along with their plea to never pave their favorite road.
No accusations. No harsh words. Just a moment of beauty in the hope of touching something deeper in those gentlemen, something more meaningful than politics or expediency. See for yourself here.
The midterm election is now exactly one month away. Millions of dollars have been spent already and millions more will change hands in the next 30 days, and the Center for Responsive Politics has the figures to prove the candidate who spends the most usually wins. This means members of the U.S. Congress are beholden to the people with the deepest pockets.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing when the average citizen contributes to a political campaign. It gives them some “skin in the game” so to speak, but there must be meaningful limits on what one individual or one organization can give. We have had limits in the past, but they are quickly eroding.
Meanwhile the letters and emails are become more strident and threatening: Money, money, give me money and do it now! And I have sent money, but no more. I am sick at heart. Even if my candidate wins I will always think of what that money could have bought — “feed the hungry, support the weak, help the suffering.”
On the other hand I will look back with pride and remember what a group of mothers did to stop the country from paving a dirt where they and their children walked and played. They did this in days, and it cost them nothing but time and energy.
Meanwhile, on a national scale, our political system is broken. Money is king, and what does it buy us? Once again our nation is at war. Right or wrong — whatever the outcome — defense contractors stand to gain. President Dwight Eisenhower ended his years in office warning the nation about a “military-industrial complex,” but let’s remember who funds this complex: The U.S. Congress, elected by U.S. citizens.
And, thanks to Citizens United, the power players in the political field are some very wealthy corporations and a few very, very rich individuals. Come on America. We can do better than this.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays.