Working outside the ballot box

Anything outside the framework of Democrat vs. Republican politics is often not perceived as “real” political action, an idea common on several campuses these days. While I share the desire to see more political action on campus, I do not feel that it is my place as an individual with a significant amount of privilege to define for other groups just what political action is.

We must realize that what some call “mainstream politics” are simply politics that have been traditionally dominated by white, upper-middle class and patriarchal values. To imply that the work that traditionally oppressed groups do is worthless because it doesn’t directly address the election is both absurd and disempowering. As allies to those who are oppressed by the system that we live in, it is not our job to lead them or tell them how to best take action. It is our job to let them lead us, to lend support in whatever way we can and to work within our own communities to break down the barriers of ignorance and privilege that would lead someone to think that a campus is void of political activism merely because there’s not a Kerry-Edwards sign in every window.

I further question the logic in which Kerry is portrayed as a champion of “progressive causes.” There are many good reasons why the activist groups on campus are thinking outside the ballot box and working at the grassroots level for change, not the least of which is that Kerry hardly addresses most of our grievances. If you don’t see the members of Students Against the Occupation spending all their time rooting for Kerry, maybe that’s because Kerry’s policies on Israel-Palestine are no better than our current president’s, and he signed every free-trade agreement that campus progressive groups have opposed. Some seem to want every group on campus to drop everything and work on the election.

This may come as a surprise, but I plan to vote for John Kerry. However, I do not think that those five minutes spent in the voting booth will in any way constitute taking “real action.” Voting is something we do every few years to make surface-level changes to our political situation. It is one tiny action that has the potential to help a little bit. In my opinion, however, grassroots action — working within communities to build mutual aid, solidarity and self-sufficiency — has the greatest potential to bring about real change. There is already a movement building around the country to highlight this type of community action that declares, “Don’t Just Vote!”

I may be at the polls Nov. 2, but I will also be on the streets, regardless of who wins the election, to join other activists from the area in calling for some real democracy.

Let’s not lie to ourselves. We’re not voting for Kerry because he embodies our vision for a true democracy, we’re voting for him because he’s not Bush.

It is essential that we are on the streets after the election to let our voices be heard loud and clear that we are not happy with a system that forces us to choose between two candidates who barely address the issues that concern us most.

Evan Greer,Swarthmore College,Swarthmore Phoenix