It was in 9th-grade geometry class, and I was sketching peace signs and flowers on my notebook. (I have always loved doodling.) While I knew the symbols were reminiscent of the “hippy flower child” my teacher called me as she sauntered up and down the aisles between our desks, I really didn’t have a specific association to what any of that meant. I did know that the people who created those emblems mattered. People matter.
At that age, I knew the only way my mother got off of “welfare” was because she got married. But we still qualified for free or reduced lunch. And, I inherently knew the stigma that carried with it. We didn’t get fresh new clothes. My mother was always worried about the costs and making sure we all had something – and there were many of us. I knew that my step-sister had more because her mother had money to spend on one kid versus the money her dad and my mom had for four kids. I questioned how our worth measured up. But I also knew that people matter.
At that age, I knew we relied on the community to get us out of really hard times that we didn’t choose for ourselves. When we moved and needed clothing, it was a Catholic church community that donated boxes and boxes and boxes for me and my siblings, before my mother met my step-father. It was my family that gave us an abundance of emotional support and physical support when life took very dramatic shifts and we needed housing and emotional support. For many years. They showed us, in spades that people matter. We mattered.
But, at that age, I didn’t really know what the peace symbol or cute flowers meant. I knew that I resonated with the book my aunt gave our family about saving our planet. I knew I loved Winnie Mandela’s story. I knew it didn’t feel fair that we seemed to have to fight for meager dollars while other people seemed to have it in spades without trying. I knew our planet mattered. I knew people matter.
When I made it to college, a cute boy in one of my classes knocked on my dorm door in support of a local woman candidate running for, then, the House of Representatives. I knew I liked the idea she was a woman, but I didn’t really like that he had no idea what she stood for or even what he wanted, even though I wasn’t able to articulate it much myself. I knew I ascribed more to the misogynistic “Femi-Nazi” term than “conservative”, and I knew I did not like what Rush had to say. (That was 1996, and Debbie Stabenow is still in office, though a different one.) I knew that one side, more than the other, agreed that people matter.
As I explored political parties and platforms. I wanted so badly to get on board, completely with the Green Party platforms, but something was missing. I wanted to be able to throw my support for Bernie, but something was missing. And, I have always known I could never identify as a Republican, because well, Lincoln Republicans swung and are really current Democrats.
I blame it on my Catholic upbringing. But it’s the social piece we need to focus on. Now, I’m not laying any claim that the DNC has all their ducks in a row and that they are the be-all-end-all. They are a giant system. A large institution that wants to keep running. But, of the two major institutions vying for any office right now, they are the one that more consistently than not stands up for social issues. And social issues are one way of saying: people matter. And, sometime after 2003, it became clear to me that we have to turn the system inside out from the inside. That means if I have left of the center views, and according to some charts, mine are really left, then I need to share them from the inside and radicalize the inside until the inside is so radical THAT is the norm. And, that, that is why I call myself a Democrat.
People first. Opportunity first. Let’s focus on that. Let’s focus on the simple truth that people matter.
I want all of us to rally around that one simple truth: people matter. People who are hungry matter. People who identify as female matter. Black people matter. People who are barely putting two nickels together to make life work, they matter. They don’t matter less or more than others, but they do matter. And so much of our society, right now, is hinging on years and years of oppressions, of systemic racism, of beliefs we haven’t questioned. Let’s rally around one thing: people matter. And, of the two major parties out there right now, the Democrats are more willing to cling to that, to the simple truth that people matter.
Do you find yourself in a conundrum? Do you also agree that people matter, but you find that both parties are doing a disservice to people? Do you hate the Democratic Party? Great. Do something about it. Don’t just sit on your side chair and call them out quietly. DO SOMETHING. Write your senators, your representatives (of all parties). Tell them what matters to you. They represent us, and if they aren’t representing YOUR interests, it is YOUR job as a citizen of these United States of America to make your voice heard. They are all accessible to write a letter, form, or otherwise.
And, above all VOTE. Every election matters. Especially the local ones. And presidential elections are about our nation coming together to share our values. All 328,000,000 values. (Also, fill out the census if you haven’t – it determines how many voices YOUR state has in the House of Representatives). I want our nation to share the value that PEOPLE MATTER and that we will choose a president who honors that PEOPLE MATTER. Black people matter. Transgender people matter. Gay people matter. Poor people matter. Varied education people matter. PEOPLE MATTER. I want a president who isn’t going to disparage people as “nasty” just because they are competing with him. I want a president who can grow a pair (of breasts ideally) and mature up to face the enormous, varied, complicated problems our world has. I want a president who isn’t too proud to say, “I don’t know the answer to that, but you know what, I’m going to find an expert to help me figure it out.”
Of the two choices, we have right now, which one do you think would do that? Which one would echo that people matter? Which one would build diverse spaces to hold varied viewpoints and not be afraid to be told, “No.”? We know the other one just likes to fire people in temper tantrums of rage when he doesn’t get his way.
If we don’t come together and echo that people matter, we will be voting our collective values that people don’t matter. How do you want that for our American values?