Friday, December 19, 2008

Beyond Petitions

In response to the anti-choice HHS regulation that went into effect today, the Planned Parenthood Action Center is gathering signatures for a petition that urges the Obama administration to begin working immediately to reverse this dangerous measure that will limit reproductive autonomy for tens of thousands. A reversal will be a difficult and lengthy process, but Obama and his staff have promised big changes in this area.

In my years of grassroots organizing, I remember many conversations with people who are fed up with petition signing. "I've signed a thousand anti-war petitions," I recall one person saying, "and yet we're still at war." Conversations about attacks on reproductive rights have gone a similar way.

In this election year, I've seen a lot of grassroots activism fade into the background in the face of big ideas like "hope" and "change". The future Obama staff has promised big things, and while I will of course hope every day for the changes promised, I know there is no substitute for down and dirty grassroots organization.

I encourage everyone to sign Planned Parenthood's petition, to do everything they can to hold Obama accountable for his words. The HHS regulation needs to be reversed immediately, and it will take an effort unheard of in the realm of bipartisan politics to achieve. I take some comfort in the excitement the Obama campaign generated, the do-it-yourself political activities it has inspired, and the energy I feel amongst people in my generation to get things done, and get them done right.

But the fact of the matter is, great change comes from a collective idea that grows from the ground, and while much of Obama's popularity came from everyday folks, Obama will become president next month. He will have to answer not only to us, but to Congress, to both sides of "the aisle", and to our allies around the world. Sitting back and hoping for change is no more effective than sitting at home on election day and hoping Obama will be elected without your vote. All major change throughout American history has grown from big ideas from small people, not vice versa. Support grassroots efforts, those of us who are struggling day in and day out to scrape together enough change to print fliers for our next big event, those of us who stand out in the cold to gather contacts and build networks, those of us who have bigger dreams than the concessions our politicians offer. We are the ones we've been waiting for, and we have the power to change the world.

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