What will your role be?

Pub date November 19, 2008
WriterAaron Knapp
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

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OPINION Many of us in the Bay Area worked hard to elect Barack Obama. We made phone calls, knocked on doors, made donations — $5, $10, $200. We monitored the polls, gathered and loaded data, and/or otherwise spread the word to friends, relatives, and colleagues. And of course, we all voted.

The good news is we succeeded. We can now believe again in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things in this country. That change has come.

But have we done what we really set out to do?

Have we remade our economy so that it is based on a strong core of working Americans who get their fair share of the fruits of economic growth, and not on house-of-cards accounting subterfuge that tends to benefit only those with the most? Have we achieved equal opportunity for everyone, so that CEO’s and other super-wealthy Americans aren’t hoarding tens of millions of dollars they don’t need while the working Americans who generated that income can barely make ends meet? Do we encourage workers to organize so that there’s a more level playing field in negotiations with employers, and real dignity and respect in every workplace?

Do we have affordable health care? Do we have energy independence? Sustainability? A responsible conclusion to a pointless and wasteful war? Enduring peace and diplomacy? Compassion for one another and personal responsibility for our actions?

Needless to say, the answer to all these questions is a resounding no. Not even close. Not yet.

Although he may be our symbol of a change for the better and an inspiration to bring it, Barack Obama is not the change we seek. We are the change we seek.

Which means that if we don’t continue to act and make sacrifices, enduring change will not come.

So what will your role be in bringing about real change in this country?

For what it’s worth, I’ve started making some changes and sacrifices. I left my high-paying job as a big-law attorney protecting the corporate status quo in this country and have committed myself to a different course of serving public and community interests.

I’ll be selling my condo that I love so much because my commitment to public service on the one hand, and the size of my mortgage payment on the other, are inconsistent propositions at this point.

I am doing everything in my power to make sure the Employee Free Choice Act is finally made into law, because my grandfather, who worked on the assembly line at Chevrolet in the 1940s when the Taft-Hartley Act passed over President Truman’s veto, would have wanted it, and would be proud of me for doing it.

What will you change about yourself, your routines, your "comfort zone," so that real change comes to this country for you, your children, and grandchildren? What sacrifice will you make for a cause greater than yourself? Only you can answer these questions. *

Aaron Knapp is a lawyer, writer, and organizer living in San Francisco. He is the founder of the The Post Partisan. He can be reached at aarontknapp@gmail.com.