Last week, my campaign to represent District 125 in the New York State Assembly held the first in a series of “Green New Dream” forums. At heart, these forums are about how to move forward at this critical time in human history.
We were honored to be joined at our first forum by Sachem Sam, a Sachem (chief) of the Cayuga Nation, representing the Bear Clan on the Haudenosaunee Great Council. He laid out a path for where we can begin to bridge our differences.
“You start by cleaning up your yard,” Sachem Sam said. “Then you go and help your neighbor clean up theirs. Then the two of you go together to your next neighbor.”
It’s hard to think of being neighborly these days. We have definitions for days: far left, far right, moderate, progressive, Trumpster, Bernie Bro, Neoliberal. People are groomed to be on high alert to spot a player from one of the other teams and take them down. Independent thought is risky as you may be rejected by your faction.
While we focus on our divisions and follow the party line, the billionaires that brought us here consolidate their power. For the last four decades, we have stood by while politicians gave away our power and resources to large corporations.
Our task is to see this moment as a wake-up call, not as a pause. If we return to the status quo that got us here, we will not survive the bigger challenges that are coming our way. Food shortages, water shortages, climate refugees, storms, and suffering on a scale we have never seen. We are not ready.
It is time for the people to take back the reins and to build something stronger.
We need guaranteed jobs for anyone who wants to help weatherize homes, plant food, build safe housing, and sustainable infrastructure. We need to invest in our small farmers and our small businesses. We need to pass laws like the New York Health Act and implement universal childcare grants. We must protect our most precious resources – our children, our freedom, our water, our air, our land, and our health – and reverse course on emissions so we have a chance at survival.
After the forum, as I reflected on the important first step of coming together, I kept thinking about the remarkable work that is being done by the local mutual aid groups. The way forward requires that we build communities where we don’t let each other fall through the cracks. With few resources and a lot of heart and ingenuity, the mutual aid movements have been on the forefront of rapidly scaling up that work community by community. Right now these networks are blossoming all over the country. Following their lead is key to our transformation.
We have the power to get ourselves out of this mess, but it will require us to stop fighting over the crumbs and start coming together to stand up for our common interests. We must stand up for each other.
This pandemic can be our portal to a better world. I invite you to come dream with us – and then to join the fight to make these dreams our reality.