The United States has been through an awakening, of sorts, these past four years.  We have had to face some hard questions about ourselves – about our values, about our responsibilities towards others and ourselves, and about who we are willing to allow to speak for us and act on our behalf.  In this time, we have lost several hugely consequential leaders (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Justice John Paul Stevens, Literary Writer Toni Morrison, and so many more) who helped shape our democracy and served as change agents for a youthful country trying to mature and find its way.  And in the process, we, as a group, came to depend on them to protect us and save us from those trying to create a different reality.  But loosing these people we have held so close in our hearts, should be teaching us something very important (and I believe it is teaching us something very important):  that we all need to individually take responsibility for saving our country and evolving our values and ideals, and to not expect that a few extraordinary individuals carry such a huge burden for our country on their own shoulders.  We should be carrying that burden with them. 

For too long in the very short history of our 244-year-old country, small numbers of people have been speaking for all of us.  First, it was due to the fact that voting was a right and privilege provided only to wealthy, white and male landowners.  Gradually, this right was extended to other males, then to women.  However, all along, there were efforts to disenfranchise many people from voting (for example, the very minorities who had waited a long time to earn that right) through intimidation tactics, pole taxes, knowledge tests, laws to prevent people from voting due to their past actions (ex-convicts) or status (college students), strict ID laws that were impossible for some groups to achieve (like requiring birth certificates from individuals who had been born into slavery and did not have birth certificates, or requiring specific mailing addresses from Native Americans who did not have such addresses on tribal lands, or requiring birth certificates as proof of identity to exactly match a woman’s last name despite the law also requiring her to use her married name on all forms of ID) – the list goes on and on.  And then there is the matter of those who simply do not engage at all in voting, justifying their actions with statements like “all politicians are the same” or “nothing ever changes” or “the candidates don’t fully represent me” or “I refuse to be part of an unjust system and play their game” or “these candidates don’t inspire me”, etc.  On the one hand, there are those who have fought for the right and opportunity to vote, for much of the history of our country, while often being met with one roadblock after another – and in many cases facing arrest or violence or death.  And on the other hand, there are those who have absolute freedom to vote, and they simply choose not to participate.   

We don’t have a perfect system, but we do have a representative form of government that permits a few people to speak and act on our behalf.  Whether we participate in their election or not, we are all subject to the decisions they make for us as a country and as individuals.  We have to be completely involved in this process – all of us!  Very little is actually asked of Americans, because we value our freedoms so much.  However, with freedom comes responsibility, and the most important thing asked of us is to be fully informed about issues and options when we vote, and to choose our leaders wisely, because what distinguishes us from other forms of governments, is the fact that our leaders are granted their power from the people, and not from their families or the military.  We need to be engaged, and through that engagement, we need to hold our leaders accountable for what they do in our name.  We need to have a voice.  And we need to share our power with our leaders, and not simply give it to them or allow them to take it from us. 

I understand how it is that, many times, people feel it is not worth their effort to engage.  I can reflect back on my own life to understand this because, while I have always been very politically involved, I have certainly allowed my voice to be silenced in school and in jobs and in relationships with family and friends and colleagues.  Stepping back and disengaging is a product of the Piscean Age, in which the focus was on allowing others to speak for us and act on our behalf (in politics, in religion, in personal relationships, etc.).  However, we are moving into the Aquarian Age which requires that we be more conscious of our actions and become better stewards of the Earth and of each other. So in this respect, we need to become more engaged, not less.  We need to demand more of our leaders, not less.  We need to partner more with our leaders in shaping our country and its values, not less.  We need to honor those inspiring leaders of ours who have passed (such as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and so many others) with the same commitment to a better country and world, as they had.  They did not disengage, they did not blame others, they did not become fearful – they pushed forward always with the understanding that change takes time and commitment and requires perseverance and individual responsibility for creating the world and environment we all wish to live in and be a part of. 

We have seen over the past four years just how bad things can get when leaders (who are often selected by the few, who are often selected by the uninformed, who are often selected by the inaction of the disengaged, etc) are subsequently not held accountable and do not reflect our values, and therefore, are permitted to steal power and use it for their own selfish purposes.  This, alone, should, and I hope will, inspire every single eligible American to get out and vote!  And not to just stop there, but to take to the streets, if and when necessary, to hold our leaders accountable for their actions.  Winning an election, or stealing an election, does not, and should not mean that we have to be satisfied with whatever actions these officials take while utilizing the power granted to them while in elected office – because that power from us should be on loan and should be shared – not abdicated by us or given away completely by us.  US stands for the United States.  It also stands for “us” – “We the People”. 

This is our time.  This is our destiny at this moment in time and in the history of our country, to affect change and to do our part to continue to create that more perfect union!  Whatever country we have moving forward, is the country that we, collectively, choose!

If you are a citizen of the U.S.: Please vote!  Please vote early!  Our country needs you! The world also needs you, because the leaders we choose, affect our international relationships and the well-being of others around the planet!