Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 a Reminder of the Need for Citizen Action to Effect Change

Published on Portside ( 2013 a Reminder of the Need for Citizen Action to Effect Change Tony Karon Tuesday, December 31, 2013 Aljazeera America For the United States’ elected leaders, 2013 was a year of could do better — and the prospects for improving their grades in 2014 may depend largely on the efforts of the citizenry to hold the politicians’ feet to the fire. Many politicians spoke eloquently on the need to reverse the growing economic inequality hollowing out American society, on the need for gun-control laws to help keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who continue to turn them randomly on fellow Americans, on the need for immigration reform to stabilize the lives of millions of people who have contributed for years to building this country and on the need to protect Syrian civilians from the horrors of the civil war that has engulfed them. But their actions did not match the urgency of their words. The nation’s elected leadership is scarcely able to pass a budget these days, and even if mutual self-interest occasionally requires a measure of brief cooperation, the deeper divide that has paralyzed Washington is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Next year’s high-stakes legislative elections militate against getting anything done on Capitol Hill, and even after November, there’s no guarantee that a heavily gerrymandered political map will allow the electorate to end the stalemate. President Barack Obama’s singular achievement — the Affordable Care Act — remains a work in progress, with history’s verdict unlikely to be delivered for a couple of years yet. The plan had the sort of software-imperiled launch familiar to many start-ups, but by year’s end, large numbers of Americans were signing on. The administration hopes that as its health care reform law creates new facts on the ground after coverage begins in January for the first cohort of patients, it will achieve an irreversible momentum. State-level changes on such social issues as same-sex marriage and the decriminalization of marijuana were a reminder of the American tradition of social change driven by the activism of the citizenry. Likewise, the fate of such issues as economic inequality, immigration and gun control in 2014 will depend heavily on the efforts of a resurgent labor movement to press for minimum-wage legislation and persuade politicians to take up that cause, on the efforts of activists like the Dream 9 to put themselves on the line to challenge immigration laws and on the work of gun-control advocates to keep the issue on the minds of legislators — although that example also offers a reminder that their opponents in the citizenry will be working just as fiercely to preserve the status quo. Those skirmishes will light up an ever-expanding American media universe, as 2013 saw citizen-journalism surge across a plethora of social-media platforms and new voices emerge in the traditional media landscape. The message, if there is one, in our 2013 news roundup, is this: America’s ability to repair and renew itself rests, as ever, on the democratic spirit that burns within its citizenry. The energy, engagement, sense of justice and spirit of community in tackling the country’s problems is what we most look forward to reporting on in 2014. Source URL: Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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