My Turn: The bigger (local) picture

For the Monitor
Published: 8/19/2021 7:00:13 AM

It’s no wonder that out-of-state corporate control of the New Hampshire legislature spawned a state budget that not only undermines public education, human services, adequate wages and progress toward addressing the climate crisis but also includes language that perpetuates systemic racism and removes the right of women to make decisions about their bodies.

Over the years the populace has not remained vigilant about evolving legislation and how it affects the quality of human lives and the living world. This neglect has allowed our path to democracy to falter. We have stepped aside and surrendered our power to the corporate elite. But as writer, comedian and commentator Baratunde Thurston explains in the introduction to his podcast, How to Citizen, “It’s hard to citizen when you can’t pay the bills.”

The policies that have chipped away at our ability to engage in meaningful decision-making have trapped us in a vicious cycle that keeps us too busy making ends meet, and too skeptical about our power to change the status quo, to be aware of the very policies that have, over the decades, created the climate crisis and perpetuated racism, poverty, cynicism, distrust and fear.

Whether already living without housing, healthcare or education, or merely facing those essentials eating up increasing chunks of our paychecks, we live with the fear of drowning in debt or worse. But we are simply too busy, too tired and too skeptical to do the work necessary to grow and sustain democracy and a decent quality of life.

As long as people are too busy to see the men behind the curtain spinning the narrative of fear that minorities are going to take away their power, the false narrative that there is a “zero-sum” of racial competition as described by the author Heather McGhee, we will continue to live in a polarized society which stokes fear and sustains hyper-militarization and obscene wealth inequality.

And that is why, when the powers-that-be saw the massive awakening to systemic racism after the murder of George Floyd, they scrambled to inject divisive concepts bills into legislatures all over the country and why they funneled millions of dollars into local races to seat officials that would carry their torches of white supremacy, fiercely support the censorship of historical truths and revive policies that disenfranchise those who would vote to change this narrative.

The only way to begin to turn this around is by carving out some time to step back, look at the big picture, see that the system is fixed against us, and begin the work with the time and resources that we have. That work won’t get done by the likes of Jeff Bezos who, after enjoying his privileged view of the big picture, remains blinded by greed and disconnectedness from those whose blood, sweat and tears created his wealth.

We need to begin in our communities. A good place to start would be to look at our Departments of Safety and ask ourselves, “what actually makes us safe?” Is it men with guns responding to a mental health crisis or burglary or is it creating communities in which each individual cares about the well-being of others and works toward a better life for all?

We must envision a different world, one not predicated on fear, but on people interacting to create the kinds of communities where we can live in peace, without fear and where needs are met.

This work has begun in many communities in New Hampshire and numerous other states which have passed rights-based ordinances protecting their resources and their natural world and upholding human rights.

The Community Rights movement plays a role in addressing the democracy crisis which we now face. We must begin to carve out the time to actively engage as decision-makers in rewriting the narrative and creating a genuine democracy that is truly of, by and for all people.

(Diane St. Germain is a board member for NHCRN. She lives in Bedford.)

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