The juxtaposition of verdicts in the Zimmerman and Alexander cases, and the unapologetic, non-reflective response of most of our political leadership leaves me wondering what I, as a concerned citizen I can do in the face of a pervasive national moral cowardice. As a citizen of a republic, I could choose to move to Florida or Mississippi and cast my vote against the representatives of injustice, misogyny, ignorance and racism who seem to frequent the media. But would that really have an impact proportionate to the personal sacrifice involved? Unlikely.
On the other hand, I have brought thousands of dollars of business to Florida directly and indirectly over the past few years (attending conferences, etc) and had plans to bring my girls to Disney World in the next few years. It seems to me that in our America today the flow of money has more power than ever before to influence policy, perhaps even more than a singular vote for a legislator (good or bad) mired in a broken system? So, for what it’s worth, I’ll be casting my financial vote against Florida and taking a pass on Mickey, beaches, orange juice and Florida conferences for the foreseeable future.
If we can no longer exercise meaningful influence through the legislative or legal processes, if protesting falls only upon deaf ears, then what leverage can citizens of a republic exert on the course of the future?
For example, does anyone know if consumer spending choices can impact policy over the long term? I think it’s really too bad we can’t marshall the same magnitude of economic muscle that helped stopped apartheid in South Africa. I suppose it’s much easier to be upset with injustice we recognize but is separate from ourselves (national projection?), than injustice we are associated with and complicit in. Our national psyche is staggeringly, astonishingly, jaw-droppingly non-reflective. Probably because, you know, “we’re number 1.”
With the conservatives on the Supreme Court reversing both the legislature and their own precedent to unwind the gains of the civil rights era because “Our country has changed”, members of state legislatures boldly claiming their primary agenda is to disenfranchise voters, and a federal system dominated by people who have NO interest in serving the people of the United States, we may need to find new collective mechanisms of action to ensure that Justice remains a moral virtual we can claim; I fear that our moral standing as a shining beacon to the world may truly become a thing of the past; something we continue to tell ourselves but that no one else really believes.
American’s current preeminence and role in world affairs is a complex, multi-factorial phenomenon of economics and history. However, I believe that there is a huge fraction of the world that wants to take our claim to moral righteousness on faith, that needs to believe there is a force acting for good in the world, despite the real-world complexities and shades of grey we all know to exist. I fear that if America strays too far from the path we claim, and squanders that faith, we may find this world to be an even harsher and more difficult place than our generations are capable of comprehending.
Faith, the belief in the inherent goodness of a people, not force, should be our nation’s most treasured asset.