For a couple weeks now, my buddy Kai has been engaged in a Fast For Democracy to bear moral witness to the corruption and state violence of concentrated wealth overwhelming the voices and votes of ordinary people. The fast is also to encourage folks to pledge to vote for pro-democracy candidates. He asked me to take the pledge, help spread the word, and encourage others to do so, and given the swirl of recent scandals and revelations around voter suppression (which I touched on a couple days ago), I felt compelled both to spread the word and to join in the fast myself.
In the Jewish tradition (and Muslim, and many others), fasting is used for reflection on the past and resolve for the future. It is used for mourning, and repentance or atonement. And in some cases it evokes gratitude. All of those feel appropriate, when considering the wounds democracy has sustained, our complicity in its less-than perfect realization, and the sacrifices that so many people have made for democracy to have survived and expanded to the extent that it has.
But that being said, while I dig Kai’s particular crusade, and agree that drawing out the poison of money in politics is a necessary step in making democracy live up to its promise, I choose to interpret the call more broadly.
Because democracy, as it has been known and understood by folks like me (White, male, middle class, sexually normative, able, etc.) has never been experienced fully by basically anybody else. Democracy has expanded yes, but what is democracy in Mike Brown’s Ferguson? What is democracy when my friends here in Georgia can’t attend the colleges that they desire to, and fear that their families might be torn apart (and, to boot, they can’t vote)? What is democracy in a country where staggering proportions of Black and Brown people cannot vote, whether because of their status as returning citizens (ex-incarcerated) or as undocumented immigrants? What is democracy when you can be legally discriminated against in employment and housing for sexual status? What is democracy when more and more women are denied sovereignty over their bodies via sexual violence and lack of reproductive justice, and access? And for that matter, what is democracy when you live in a ‘free society’ everywhere except for the workplace, where the vast majority of Americans live in an economically coercive dictatorship?
So I’m fasting for democracy, dawn until dusk, from now through election day, November 4th. And I pledge to vote for candidates that will fight valiantly against the corruption of money in politics, but also for those candidates that will stick up for democracy in all its other manifestations. And do so acknowledging that attacks on the ideal of democracy are nothing new, that White Supremacy, Patriarchy and Capitalism have framed it since its inception, and frame it today. But we have to renew the fight in every generation, on the new playing field that is shaped from the successes of our ancestors and the innovations of our enemies.
So I encourage you to, if you care to and can, join the fast. And certainly take the pledge. I’m doing so because there are at least 40,000 Georgians who might not be able to, and that fact requires moral witness, dedication, and action.
If you sign the pledge, please share here. And if you want to take up the fast in whatever way you can, please share that too!