Courting Votes

Small Justices

I am popular—my phone rings off the wall from early morning until bedtime. I’m not a rock star or a film star or a sports star. I’m a voter—and ‘tis the season. Through phone calls, television commercials, and Internet blasts, I’ve been eagerly courted. Come-on lines range from appeals for party loyalty to preys on irrational fears du jour (Ebola, anyone?). Spin renders opponents minor Beelzebubs and the Chosen as icons: gold-leaf halos and all.

I find myself wishing for an early-voter app: I scan my “I Voted” sticker and the app mutes all campaign rhetoric thereafter.

I’m no political expert: I learned more about politics from the West Wing than from my U.S. History class. I’m just an average Josie who pays her taxes and tries to keep her nose clean. But we’re a nation of Average Joes and Josies. Which made me wonder what we Average Joe/Josies hope for in a just politician on campaign. Here’s my list:

  1. A platform built on what the politician hopes to accomplish and why, not on what s/he believes will secure a win;
  2. Wisdom—strength of head and heart: the ability to make excruciating decisions while standing in the shoes of those most impacted;
  3. Enough political savvy to get the job done and enough integrity to know where to draw the line;
  4. Passion for the work that’s not tied to a paycheck;
  5. Greater commitment to the needs of constituents than to the desire for reelection; and
  6. Global awareness—recognition that constituents are best served when we find ways to work together for the common good.

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a beginning. What’s on your list? Oh, wait, sorry. The phone’s ringing…

Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.

~John Quincy Adams


Our Business

Small JusticesA job test. Passed. A job interview. Seemed to go well.

“We’ll let you know in six weeks or less.”

Six weeks later the hopeful applicant sends a carefully worded “checking on the status of my application” email.

“We should decide no later than the end of next week,” is the response.

End of next week. No word. Then, on Saturday, a form letter: “We have filled all available positions.”

The sad thing about this story is that I don’t need to convince most readers this actually happened to someone. The scenario is far too familiar: someone with a job, attendant paycheck, and the ability to buy groceries treats job seekers like lower forms of life. Why? Does trodding on the downtrodden feed a sick sense of power? Does such behavior stem from a lack of imagination: the inability to stand in another’s shoes? Or is it cowardice: hiding behind protocols to shield oneself from legal ramifications or simply from an uncomfortable interchange?

Whatever the cause, such treatment is unjust. A job seeker  left in limbo for weeks on end deserves a phone call or, at the very least, a personal email. Whatever discomfort the bearer of the bad news feels is nothing compared to what is experienced by the receiver. Especially when the receiver is treated like just one more mundane task to check off a to-do list.

Everyone of us gets rejected. The how of that rejection can make the difference between temporary bewilderment and permanent self destruction. If we must reject, let us do so with humanity.

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

Business!’ cried the Ghost, writing its hands again. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forebearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” ~ Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol


14 Hundred and 92

Small Justices

We just completed a three-day celebration of “Oppression of a Native People by a Foreign Colonialist” Day. Sales—online and in stores—as well as school and business holidays marked the occasion. What, then, were we celebrating? Columbus certainly possessed courage; I wouldn’t set to sea for parts unknown sans GPS. And he had loyalty: he did what he did for God and country.

But Columbus also accepted social and religious mores that made him act unjustly. In elementary school I learned: “In 14 hundred and 92 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” The rhyme could continue, “Claimed another’s land and charged, ‘Believe as I do.’” A product of his time, Columbus basically told residents of “his” discovered country to convert or live as slaves.

What’s my point in rehashing all this business? It’s not as if we can return to 14 hundred and 92 and give Columbus a talking to (bad rhyme intended). We can, however, learn from Columbus—from his courage and his loyalty as well as from his major missteps.

In the aftermath of Columbus Day, we can choose to think for ourselves: to question policies that undermine justice for all, and to recognize “spin” in everything from political debate to television commercials. Also, we can recognize that history written solely by vanquishers is not history, but propaganda. History’s story requires numerous points of view, including that of the vanquished. And we can seek to act justly. Each day provides myriad opportunities, from choosing not to muscle our way into traffic or the check-out line to learning a service worker’s name and expressing our gratitude.

The voyage of 1492 forever changed history—with mixed results. Where do we go from here? 2014 is our year to set sail, seeking justice for all. And that’s never a small journey.

There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.~Mahatma Gandhi

On Yer Left!

Small Justices

“On yer left!” The words, shouted over handlebars or above running shoes sound less like ‘Excuse me, coming through’ and more like ‘Move your bloomin’ arse!’” When my walking feet don’t scurry to the margins fast enough, I’ve received the follow up: “I said, on yer left!”

On my walks I keep to the right, leaving the left open for those moving faster. And yet twice I’ve been knocked down. It seems I cannot make myself small enough to escape the ire of some. What is behind this behavior? I’ve had occasion to puzzle on the question while wiping gravel off my hindquarters.

“On yer left!” stems from a widely-accepted yet largely unassessed formula:

Bigger > Smaller

Faster > Slower

It’s not surprising: we live in a world that equates “getting ahead” with human worth and where bigger is unquestionably better.

Yet Austin, Texas’ “Share the Road” campaign seeks to motivate motorists (bigger and faster) to respect cyclists (smaller and slower) on our roadways. Cyclists deserve equal consideration with motorists because everybody, large, small, slow, or fast matters equally.

Justice extends that measure of respect to all walks, runs, and cycles of life. After all, is the pursuit of perfect health, perfect body, or shortened run time worth treating another human like a road cone?

I’ve been known to respond to “On yer left!” with “On your right!” I’m usually ignored—it’s easy to overlook what is smaller and slower—but I’ve taken a stand for my equal worth.

Here’s my “Share the Trail” formula:

Respectful Cyclists + Respectful Runners + Respectful Walkers + Respectful (all other conveyance here) = Healthy Community

See you on the trail!

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. ~Elie Wiesel