Towards a Just Metropolis

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When I was seventeen, I volunteered for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. I decided that since not only was I too young to vote I lived in a solidly red state, I would do what I could to make an impact by volunteering for the campaign. My dad decided he would too, and together we went to Grand Junction, Colorado, for a weekend. We canvassed throughout the town, collecting data for the campaign to use. It was a fantastic experience. The weekend before the first Tuesday of November, I decided I could do even more, and I participated in a call center to get the vote out. This may be the only time of my life where I could consider myself taking charge and seeking to make a difference rather than hope a change comes on its own.


It seems as though, despite playing by the rules and technically winning the game, we still manage to lose the game.

By 2012, though, I had lost that fire. The first term of Obama’s presidency was a time for liberals to become jaded. Serious attempts were made to reform the finance sector and healthcare especially, and the result was a right-wing backlash, gridlock, powerless majorities, and compromise to the point of impotency. I supported Obama’s bid for the Presidency in 2012, if not because I did not like Mitt Romney, because I believe that the President has not forgotten why he was first elected and may be just as disappointed in his presidency as many of his supporters, that he truly wants to do the right thing. However, I was in college, I had a job, and I had no time even to make phone calls. In other words, I had excuses to sit back and hope for the best.

Soul of a Citizen says that Americans are becoming increasingly apolitical and disenchanted with politics. I contend that this is true for liberals more than anyone else. Since 2000, liberals have seen their attempts at reforming the country thwarted repeatedly by increasingly Byzantine electoral and parliamentary rules, denying them their turn to govern even when they have the most votes in elections and in Congress. It seems as though, despite playing by the rules and technically winning the game, we still manage to lose the game. I find it hard not to become jaded and disenchanted in the face of this, and it doesn’t surprise me that millennials, despite being solidly liberal in ideology, increasingly identify as independents (including my girlfriend) and some are even becoming disenchanted with democracy.

…the only way to break out of the cycle of cynicism is to deny it power, not be deterred by opposition, and courageously press on anyway. This is the only way real change has ever been made, and ever will be made.

Soul of a Citizen challenges that attitude, and while I think there is still a long way to go, I think it’s a helpful step in the process of restoring confidence and fervor in Americans. The book reminds us that change begins at the grassroots, that forming strong coalitions is the key to victory, and that regular people can make a difference starting in their communities where they have more say. Also, the only way to break out of the cycle of cynicism is to deny it power, not be deterred by opposition, and courageously press on anyway. This is the only way real change has ever been made, and ever will be made.

When I think about what I hope to accomplish in this class, forming a movement immediately comes to mind. Taking the money granted to us and growing it and then spending it on some socially beneficial purpose is all well and good, but money is valuable only for its ability to inspire others to do as you desire, which can be accomplished by any number of means. What I would rather see than bake sales that turns $5000 to $6000 that is then donated to the homeless shelter (not that there isn’t anything noble about such an endeavor) is an attempt to use the money gifted to the class as the seed for starting the growth of a much wider social movement, the initial spark from which a powerful coalition demanding change is born. If we use the funds to expose, explain, and convince people to take action, I believe that we will accomplish a lot more both for our community and for ourselves, and we will be proud to have lit the flame.

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