Far too often, we see only the difficulties fighting for better government as a frustrating day to day struggle. And it is. But so long as people are willing to stand up and fight for something better — to challenge the status quo by demanding more transparency, by agitating and pushing for better government — there is hope.

And it is in that hope and the fight for something better that change occurs.

Yesterday, Jane made a big announcement about a change that is coming to FDL: we’re adding a diary blog so that you can lift up your own voice to help convince others of a needed action or to educate about something that needs correction. FDL won’t be going anywhere, but we are adding another layer that is run on the power of YOU.

Because it is in the courage of individuals, standing up for what is right — sometimes alone, sometimes with like-minded folks — that the ripples of change get started across the surface.  Without those ripples, nothing ever changes.  But with them?  Anything is possible. 

For example:  today is Nelson Mandela’s 90th birthday.  From his early years as a young dissident lawyer on the run (YouTube) from government agents through his 30 years of imprisonment, all the way through to the end of apartheid and his current fight against global poverty and AIDS, Mandela has remained a fighter.  And, more than that, he has held on to hope:

…For the first 14 years of his imprisonment, Mandela’s view of the world was a desolate courtyard, stripped of all vegetation and boxed in by tall concrete walls, crowned with razor wire. Between that and his days working in the dusty stone quarry, Mandela was desperate for some form of life. So in 1978, he convinced prison officials to allow him to start a garden in the courtyard. 

Not only did the garden provide an escape from the depressing routine of prison life, it also provided Mandela with a place to hide the manuscript for the autobiography he’d been scratching out on whatever scraps of paper he could find.

Shortly after he planted this garden, his granddaughter was born and he named her Hope. In his book Long Walk to Freedom he writes:

“During all my years in prison, I had never lost hope—and now I never would. I believed deeply that this child would be part of a new generation of South Africans, for whom apartheid would be a distant memory. That was my dream.”… 

Imagine a world where Nelson Mandela had simply put his head down, kept his mouth shut, and never acted to achieve something better for his family and his nation.  Think about what Nelson Mandela and the other activists in South Africa were able to accomplish over a long, long fight for freedom.  Thank goodness they never gave up after hitting the first or second obstacle or more.  And think about what they are still working for today. 

Far too often, folks feel helpless and hopeless in the face of some injustice or problem, when tackling it individually seems less than useless.  We are hoping that Oxdown Gazette will help give you the tools to connect with like-minded activists, to talk together about potential solutions, to devise a strategy to push for change…and then to go out together to make that change a reality.  

We also wanted to give more people the tools to watch the machinations of government and to point to problems that need to be addressed.  There are so many, from the community level to the national one, that it has become nearly impossible to track them all at once.  More eyes, more oversight, and hopefully more accountability is on the way.  But that is up to you — all of you — as much as anyone.

Something that Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, has always resonated with me:

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.  I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.

This is true for all of us, every single day. Citizenship, after all, is something that we have to DO. Every single day.  

So many people have stood up and done the necessary work to make change happen through the years.  Our nation needs that now as much as at any other time in our history.  Will you stand up and lead on some issue?  What will be your first call to action?  Because you have the power to be the change you wish to see.

You just have to figure out a way to take that first step, and then keep moving forward…

PS — As a reminder, we are doing some site work, and the "new comments" notice has had to be temporarily disabled.  You’ll have to do a manual screen refresh to see new comments.  Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re trying to do some upgrades.  Thanks much for your patience! 

(YouTube — Nelson Mandela’s plea for work on global poverty issues.)

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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