Article Op-Ed

Real Change comes from Local Elections, not National


Author Ahmed Ali & Others by

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Real Change comes from Local Elections, not National

We asked a few people to let us know if they are voting this election, and a few replied with a simple 'No', and others explained some more. Here are some thought provoking responses from Ahmed Ali (Local Scholar, Imam), Amin Tomeh (Community Leader, Civil Engineering Professional) and Sarah Mostafa contributed to this article.


It is the height of naivete for us to assume that we can change US foreign policy while we consist of perhaps 1% of the population. Ahmed Ali: (Local Scholar, Imam)

I probably will not be voting. I say probably because I am at least ambivalent, if not cynical and outright jaded by the process.

In 2000, Muslim organizations were boasting that they delivered the necessary votes for George W Bush, and look where that ended up. Then in 2004, major Muslim leaders were saying "Anybody but Bush" yet we got four more years. During the campaign of 2008, Obama was feted worldwide, to the point of winning a Nobel Peace Prize before he even did anything. And then we received point and click assassinations of whole families.

I'm not just jaded by the (lack of) performance of the politicans. It's also the fact that most Americans' votes simply don't count because they don't live in swing states. It's also Citizens United and SuperPACs and untrackable slush funds. It's also Etch-a-Sketchs, 47%, and (no) Hope and Change.

It's also the lack of discussion of anything substantive - no real discussion of foreign policy, the budget crisis, or the healthcare crisis. Sure, every politican has his/her own pet solution, but they always duck the hard questions. Then, if they actually get around to coming up some half-baked solution, the system defangs said solution via backroom closed-door horsetrading where lobbyists write up the laws themselves, which the politicians rubberstamp and then pat themselves on the backs before they take month long vacations.

If there is a sliver of light in all of this darkness, it is the fact that we absolutely can make a difference, not at the national level, but at the local level.

It is the height of naivete for us to assume that we can change US foreign policy while we consist of perhaps 1% of the population.

Small groups of people can only make small yet hopefully important differences. Simply by being involved in local issues and being a part of the fabric of society, we can influence people's opinions and thinking. This is nothing new - in fact, it forms the essence of the civil rights movement. And in fact, this process has been ongoing for many long years and is already bearing fruit in form of Muslim elected officials, mostly at the local level and just beginning at the national level.

I can only speak for myself - if I vote, it will be with the hope of changing things locally so that years or possibly decades from now, we can change things nationally.


Instead of the president filling the office, it appears that the office is overtaking the president. Amin Tomeh: (Community Leader, Civil Engineering Professional)

I am planning to sit this election out. The more I pondered it the more I realized that instead of the president filling the office, it appears that the office is overtaking the president. I am of the opinion that a local school board election is far more impactful than a presidential election. However, this by no means suggests that the Muslim community at large ought to share my sentiments for indeed relative to our community's evolution, political participation is necessary. On an individual level, I am just indifferent as to the result of this election.


The problem unfortunately is that everyone is relying on our government for change. Sarah Mostafa:

My current philosophy in life is to focus on grassroots social changes, and I have a particular disinterest in politics. I barely paid attention to the debates. So I wouldn't want to voice my thoughts and give the impression I actually know what I'm talking about when it comes to voting.

I feel bottom-up change is the best option for humanity to solve many of its pressing challenges. If everyone did their best within their community, I believe most of the world's problems would be solved. The problem unfortunately is that everyone is relying on our government for change. This only lends to the facade of change, because so much of our institutions are entangled with dubious economic and political practices that will take years to overthrow. An extreme view, I acknowledge, but my educational background in environmental policy has lead me to that conclusion.



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