"Be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi)" by Doug Belshaw on flickr

"Be the change you want to see in the world (Gandhi)" by Doug Belshaw on flickr

I have been involved in social action for decades: I attended my first protest/rally at the age of 14 in Tucson, Arizona, protesting the Titan missiles being installed around Arizona to be a “first response” against a Soviet nuclear attack. In the 30 years since, I have studied activism at the knees of some of leading lights of peace and social justice.

One lesson I kept hearing, over and over, was Be the change you want. It is easy to stand on the sidelines and jeer; it takes little effort to piss and moan and carry on about things should be better. But “easy” is rarely effective.

Be the change you want. We are moving towards Election Day 2011, when many cities and counties will elect local governments. If you do not like the way things are going, then register to vote and then vote. Research the candidates thoughtfully, and make your decision according to your conscience. If you really believe that “None of the Above” is the best candidate, then vote for “None of the Above.” Do not be silent, even in your displeasure: if you refuse to take part, then you lose all right to complain about the outcome.

Be the change you want. In 2012, we will be electing state lawmakers, governors, Congressmen, Senators, even a President of the United States. Do not be afraid to tell candidates or their deputies that they must earn your vote. If they oppose your values, tell them why you refuse to campaign for them or sent them money. Be polite, be succinct, but be firm. If a candidate does support your values, then get off your butt and work to get that person elected. Knocking on doors in your precinct, chatting up the candidate to your friends and neighbors, and handing out campaign material will do much more than an easy $25 check possibly could.

Be the change you want. If there is a race where you just cannot support anyone, then consider throwing your own hat into the ring. I might be a bit much for a novice candidate to run for President or governor or US Senator, but school board, or city council, or state representative…. Why not? Campaign on the issues that are dear to you, and run to win. It is difficult — I speak from experience on this, and I may be speaking from more recent experience soon — but it is very rewarding regardless of how the election turns out.

Be the change you want. It is easy to curse the darkness, but no matter how enthusiastically you curse, you end up out of breath and still in darkness. Make the effort to light a candle, and don’t be afraid to hold it high so others can see. Be the change you want, and change will come.

Gregory Gadow

Gregory Gadow

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