Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Not everyone is free

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As I write, it is the Fourth of July and I am visiting my family home after many years away. Sitting on the roof with my children watching fireworks light up the sky I feel the pull within myself about the complexities of it all: a night sky full of color and my kids' wonder-filled eyes, a country that many have served to strive toward independence, all overshadowed by the knowledge that we live on stolen land, built by slaves in an America where not all are free.

The America so many fought to create has always claimed to hold the principles of a free and fair democracy. Celebrating America's Independence Day this year carries a significant weight in a time when Republicans across the country are actively working to dismantle our voting rights through legislation that at its very core is anti-American. No amount of red, white and blue can mask the fact that we still inhabit a land stolen from native people who we continue to disenfranchise through environmental racism, oppression, and incarceration. No star-spangled banner and sparkler clad celebration can hide the deep threads of injustice faced by those who carry America on their backs every single day. No American flag T-shirt can dress up the daily assaults on our democracy, on our democratic process, and on our democratic principles.

The current stripping away of the voting rights of those who call America home is an assault on the fundamental freedoms and rights our country so adamantly claims to value. Oppressive policies, unabashed police brutality, legislation intended to strip groups of people of their basic human rights, attempts to ban critical race theory from our schools, rampant voter suppression efforts, and negligence on critical climate action—this anti-American dream is the new Republican flag.

Today's Republican Party exploits power at every level in an effort to maintain their idea of control. From partisan gerrymandering to exploiting the filibuster, they are taking every opportunity to quickly pass strategic voter suppression bills and election related policies meant to cause fear and weaken faith in our democratic system. If you attend any recent SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting, you will see the same calculated efforts here in our backyard. The integrity of our local elections is being deliberately disassembled piece by piece. Each move may seem inconsequential on its own and easy to gloss over, but together the recent changes and decisions hold the power to shape our elections and the future of our communities for decades to come.

These flailing attempts to stifle progress and dismantle our systems of democracy are a sign of the desperation of the right. As elections have become increasingly partisan and the Republican Party moves to the right, they are having a hard time winning over voters. Rather than winning elections in traditional methods by doing the work of swaying voters to candidates, Republicans are actively working to win elections by limiting voters and their access to the ballot. It's simple, but in truth it's hard to deny. Their constant fear-mongering and accusations of voter fraud reveal their long-disguised drive for voter suppression. By stomping on participation, creating unjust barriers to access and strategically disqualifying those on the edges, the right is displaying a gross and unabashed belief that in their privilege, they deserve more than others.

These next few months and years are critical. While Democrats saw significant victories in 2020, history indicates Republicans would make gains in the coming elections. But recent voter participation combined with the visceral assault on our freedoms stands to motivate a different kind of outcome in 2022. This is enough to scare the Republican Party and unite their leaders at every level under one banner; stifling the soul of America by destroying Democracy as we know it.

It is time to stop waiting for someone else to save democracy, and stop pretending it is too radical to end the filibuster, abolish the electoral college and adopt campaign finance reform. When you vote next in SLO County, the outcome won't just be based on who showed up. It will be based on how the current county supervisor majority thwarted the process and manipulated the playing field before voting even began. We have critical questions to ask ourselves now. Are we "more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity"? (MLK) Or do we want democracy to live to see another day? It's not hyperbole, it's a wake up call. We should be fighting for the future that we all deserve, because no one is free until everyone is free. Only then can we wave a flag for an American way that welcomes everyone. Δ

Quinn Brady (she/her) is a community advocate, organizer and mother on the Central Coast. Send a response for publication to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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