Musician devoted to Justice, Creativity, and Courage

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You can’t just throw money at the problem of money in politics

You Can’t just throw money at the problem of Money in politics

We’ve all heard the old saying, “You have to work for what you have,” and this is true, for some.  In the fight to restore democracy in this country, a representative republic for which all people have a voice and don’t have to have millions in the bank to be represented by politicians, we are now seeing a trend of money being poured into a conundrum where money is the problem in the first place!

On the ground, discussions are not about money in politics, they are about the impending threat of terrorism, ebola, health care (or lack thereof), marriage equality, Obama and his perceived failures, student loan debt increasingly growing, lack of funding for public schools, the cost of milk.  These subjects do not lie in the realm of money in politics or in Supreme Court decisions, yet all of them are directly affected by this legalized corruption we have for an election system.  Our populations’ discussions are also highly influenced by corporately controlled media who decides what subjects are discussed (or not discussed) at the dinner table.

If we want to get money out of politics, and 96% of us want it badly, we must start on the ground, with teams of people making this the discussion amongst neighbors and friends, church-goers and teammates.  Teachers and auto-workers, librarians and McDonalds line cooks all need to be talking about how corruption has cut our ties with the very representatives whom we elect into office (if we vote at all!)  North Carolina’s Forward Together movement is a great example of mobilizing and turning out citizens who realize that we are all in this together – money in politics is the issue that lies at the heart of our problems.

To return to working for what you have, I must say that if the strategy continues on the path of say, the Mayday PAC and others, we will not win this cause to get money out of politics and restoring our democracy by throwing more money into a corrupt system.  That money could be used to build a groundswell of people, college students and grandmothers, farmers and lawyers, restaurant owners and county commissioners, all of these people are the ones who need to be tapped for their disdain of a bought and sold government  These are the people who could benefit from millions of dollars being spent to organize and mobilize a national discussion.  Throwing more money into this situation, and ignoring the means to which people power is harnessed (grassroots organizing) creates an elitist opposition to an elitist right-wing monopoly of our elections.  We’re in need of a social movement from the ground up to get money out of politics, this tactic of pouring money into a broken system couldn’t be farther from what this country needs right now.

Realize that while our heads may be filled with the problem of money in politics, as we work within the realm of education to make this change, we must understand that we are nowhere near the national level of awareness to create a change in 2016.  If we poured and pooled our resources into organizing people on the ground, young and old, we could encourage people to start at their city level in making the change we so badly want to see – a democracy not bought by money, but represented by people who care.

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Part of my paper – I don’t know where to put it or even if it goes at all, but I just wrote three pages about who I am and why I do what I do… I’ll at least publish it here.

Anita Kinney

Policy Advocacy CLC

SIT Graduate Institute

Jeff Unsicker

When I started at SIT, I had no idea that Policy Advocacy would be the direction of my path.  I was raised not to speak about politics or religion over the dinner table.  My family would talk about politics very little and what I knew about it, I didn’t want to know.  Never big on being informed about what was going on around me, there was no incentive for me to be inquisitive about politics.  I watched “I’m Just a Bill”.  I read my social studies books.  Schoolhouse Rock taught me all I needed to know about politics and from the way people talked about the rest of the government and lawyers and elections and presidents, I knew that I wanted nothing to do with it because it had nothing to do with me, and it was all negative.  I could cry right now thinking about the fact that millions and millions of people in this country feel that same way and are convinced that their problems are their own, they created them, they can’t fix them, and therefore “that’s life”.  I grew up in an sexually abusive, neglectful household.  I lived in a car as a toddler and I learned what hunger feels like.  I denounced the existence of God at the age of seven, all because I was alone.  There wasn’t anyone out there who was working on my team.  By the grace of something in the Universe however, I was saved from falling into the traps of poverty and depression by Earle and Juanita Moore, my maternal grandparents.  They lifted me up and treated me with respect and love – the most important aspect of any political work.  They encouraged me to do my best and eventually, that’s how I ended up thriving in this world.  They wouldn’t allow me to be any less than they knew I could be and they taught me that I was strong, didn’t need to take any junk from anyone, and that my voice mattered.  I made mostly A’s in school (excluding conduct grades of course) and excelled in music and vocal performance.  I got a job working in a local Italian restaurant.  Finally I had something to live for that wasn’t rebellion against abuse.  I have a life and immeasurable gratitude for it.  That’s the most abridged version of my life I’ve ever written, but it must be included in order to comprehend why I am on this path, this road of activism, confronting powerful and damaging forces and speaking out against injustice.  I was alone and someone spoke up for me.  I was helpless to a systemic system of callousness and abuse.  My world was small until I was shown that the world had love.  All of a sudden, because someone was MY advocate, I could then, in turn, be my own.  I owe my grandparents indefinitely for the passions of my work, they are the reasons I exist at all.  Through their support, I began to have the courage to open my heart to listen to others, to accept criticism and failures, to be able to hear words of encouragement and listen to my heart.  And along the way, I have been blessed to have important mentors and friends who support me and guide me along as long as I am able.

Coming to grad school at SIT Gradate Institute, I thought that I would be studying social justice, go into the Peace Corps, and be able to give back what I owed to those who altered the course of my life.  I thought I could “go out and change the world”.  Turns out, my backyard was the place that needed fixing.  I realized that the work I needed to do was to go back home and advocate for the people who grew up poor and marginalized, advocate for myself.  Our world is run by a system of exploitation, riddled with contradiction after contradiction; capitalism rippling out from the center of it all, touching every life on this planet.  The issue of accumulation of wealth creating the need for markets and hijacking any sense of community once everything becomes a commodity doesn’t sit well with me.  It’s like being abused by an invisible hand, something is not right – there is so much needless suffering and it could start to end.  My work to get big money out of elections stems with Democracy Matters and a whole coalition of other activist organizations, comes from this unsettling realization of how our world works.  If we must have this overarching, conscious-less system, we have to start somewhere in order to change it for the good of everyone and for the continued existence of Us on this planet.  I think starting with who represents us and how they get into power is the crux of that solution.

Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  My life is intrinsically connected to everyone else’s.  My fate is your fate.  My pain is your pain.  Your journey is mine.  If you are experiencing injustice and harm, I am too.  This is what drives my policy advocacy work.  A love of humanity as love of self.  There can be no peace in this world, without true justice and that will only come through advocating for those in need, speaking up for ourselves and not waiting for any super heroes.  On the shoulders of giants we stand, those of our history who fought tooth and nail for justice to be realized – and that battle may be eternal, but this is the train I choose to be on.  I owe it to those fighters, those protesters, those marchers, those non-violent agitators who highlighted what was wrong in this world.  They fought for EVERYONE’s voice to count, for my voice to count as a woman, as a worker, as a student, as a granddaughter.  I want to be a voice for those who feel like I did, alone and powerless.  If a small percentage of people and corporations can buy elections, then where’s the power lie?  STILL in the hands of the people.  Still in the power of the vote and of citizen participation.  If your vote doesn’t matter, then why do people try so hard to take it away?  Why did people die for the right to have a voice in this country?  If a small group of people start to stand up to power, the rest can feel justified and supported to stand up too.  Apathy cannot live when there is an engaged citizenry, willing to do the work necessary to make democracy work for them.  That’s what I’m doing. I want a system of public financing of elections in this country, in all states.  If We the People own the elections, then the chosen representatives work for US.  What they are supposed to do!   By advocating for fair elections, I am attempting to make democracy work as a true representation of the human beings it is designed for.


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We The People Deserve Fair Elections – Letter to the Editor

strong-public-schoolsI sent this in to be published last night:

We The People Deserve Fair Elections

Are you okay with the fact that North Carolina politicians receive huge donations from wealthy contributors and give tax breaks to the rich and corporations while they cut funding for schools, public safety and for other critical, life-saving services?  If you want a government that cares about and listens to ordinary North Carolinians, then I have good news. There is a coalition of organizations in our state right now working to take back our democracy advocating average citizens speaking out against these injustices who want to get this private money out of OUR election system.  “We the people” are being railroaded by wealthy campaign donors like Art Pope (billionaire CEO of Roses, Maxway and other chain discount stores) whose political money is silencing the overwhelming majority of North Carolinian voices, all the while implementing new laws restricting our right to vote!

Until this year, North Carolina had a public financing option for our Supreme Court races.  Currently, in state legislative races Connecticut, Maine, and Arizona, and city races in New York City, among others, the citizens have fair representation because candidates are not ruled by big dollars but by the needs of the people.   Imagine politicians spending time talking with you and solving problems, instead of using precious hours each day raising money from wealthy contributors. It means that highly paid corporate lobbyists lose their clout! It means that if you have good ideas, you can run for office even without millions in your bank account!

However, by the end of our latest legislative session, Art Pope used his new position as the Budget Director for Governor Pat McCrory, along with a very small group of ideologically driven politicians, to completely gut our Judicial Fair Elections program.  DESPITE the fact that over 93 percent of North Carolina voters believe that campaign contributions can affect a judges ruling (according to a 2011 poll from the nonpartisan N.C. Center for Voter Education.)  This complete and utter disregard of our voices is leaving us in the dark.  We need accountable and representative government., not one beholden to the money that pays candidates’ campaigns.  This is a non-partisan issue.  Money floods our election system and drowns out ALL of our voices.  But there is something that YOU can do and something that North Carolina is doing right now, to make this legislature and governor accountable to their electorate.  Thousands of people across this state have been protesting at Moral Monday rallies, standing up for their rights, and making it known that we will not re-elect those who are tearing apart our foundation of Democracy.

Alamance County is hosting a Moral Monday event, Monday October the 28th, from 5-6:30pm at the Burlington Historic Depot Amphitheater.  We will be rallying to show both our complete disapproval of the actions of our legislature and governor and also rejoicing the efforts of ordinary citizens to stand up and be heard.  We are inviting you to join us in our mission to bring to light the harsh injustices that have been hidden beneath the surface here in North Carolina.  Uncovering the truth that corruption and money are silencing people like us and keeping us from the Democracy that we fight for and deserve.  We should be able to run for office with the support of our communities, not because of how much money we can raise to outspend our competition.  If ordinary citizens had the resources to run for office independent of special interest money,  it could lead to the break we need from the powerful hold that money has on our democracy.

The truth is that with YOUR help, a more accountable North Carolina government could be within our grasp,  even though powerful corporate donors are fighting to retain their grip on our political process. That’s why we need you! Minorities, veterans, the elderly, women, the disabled, unemployed, students, and all working people across the state have an important role in deciding whether North Carolina will have a political system where everyone’s voice is heard. If you want your representatives in Raleigh to listen to YOU, join our Moral Monday rally in Burlington, October 28th to show your support for a fair and inclusive democracy. North Carolinians deserve a state government that is of, by and for the people of North Carolina  —   not one bought and paid for with big campaign checks. Together we can do it! Forward together, not one step back!

NC Schoolteacher blog:

Video about NC voting rights