BY SHARON MARTIN
The United States has never been kind to all its citizens. The natives of this continent weren’t even granted citizenship, the right to vote, to have a say in governance, until the 1920s. Yes, that includes the heroic Choctaw code talkers of World War I.
Slaves were actual property with fewer rights than my dog has now. I can be charged with cruelty to animals, but slave owners had no such constraints. Ownership gave one the right of rape, beatings, and murder, the right to sell a woman’s child from her arms.
As part of the privileged [white, landowning] class, I didn’t appreciate how fragile a human’s rights could be until I got out into the wider world, had a chance to see how other people live. A good many of my fellow citizens haven’t had their eyes opened yet. Or perhaps they really do believe the lie that God gave this land to the conquerors.
Conquerors are merely thieves. I can claim that at least my Quaker ancestors purchased their land from the original inhabitants, but I’m not sure they even had the right to do that. What grants us the right to be born and to die, to live where we are or migrate to another place?
Animals have always fought for territory. Bulls have fought for the right to mate. Animals with few or no predators can wipe out native populations.
Humans are animals. We try to claim special status, but right now I’m seeing an especially dangerous breed on the loose in this country, and I’m afraid.
If you aren’t afraid of this administration, of the income-inequality-widening policies of the GOP, of nationalism, of the way refugees are treated as something less than human, it is either because you have purposefully made yourself blind, choosing to see what you want to see, or you are choosing to not look at all.
When people are struggling day to day just to survive, they have little time for philosophy and politics. They see no meaning in their vote. But educating ourselves and voting is the only sane weapon we have right now.
How do we get out the vote? How do we educate people to vote in their own best interest? What can we do to save this country, to be as high-minded as we like to tell ourselves we are?
– Sharon Martin lives in Oilton, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer. Her latest book, Not A Prodigal, is available through Barnes and Noble. Her recent children’s book, Froggy Bottom Blues, can be purchased in hardcover or paperback from Doodle and Peck Publishingand in paperback from Amazon.