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Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Keeping the Pantry Full: Freedom and Justice Demand Constant Vigilance

[dc]“I[/dc] can’t wait till the Mueller report comes out.” “I can’t wait until the mid-term elections.” “I can’t wait till we elect a new president in 2020.” “We’ll never achieve equality until we abandon capitalism and adopt socialism.” Almost everyone I know is working hard to get us out of the terrible political predicament we’re currently in, but only a handful seem to recognize that none of these things is a permanent fix. Justice, freedom, and equality don’t have fairy tale endings. There’s no moment after which we can live happily ever after. Maintaining freedom and justice and equality will be a constant battle, not only in our lifetimes but forever.

Have we ever heard someone say, “I finally got all the weeds out of my yard. I never have to worry about that nasty task again”?

Have we heard anyone say, “Whew. I’m finally down to my ideal weight and BMI. Now I can stop exercising and watching what I eat”?

Or “I finally have the right to marry, and I’ve married the man of my dreams. It’s all coasting from here”?

Whatever our personal end goals are for “progress,” whether that be electing anyone other than Trump, or trying to get Democrats to move to the left, or to implement full-fledged socialism, Election Day is not the end of the struggle. The “Revolution” is not the end.

The work we do is hard. We want it to be over. We want to “win” and finally have a chance to breathe, but the painful truth is we can never relax.

Whatever our personal end goals are for “progress,” whether that be electing anyone other than Trump, or trying to get Democrats to move to the left, Election Day is not the end of the struggle.

Critics of reform point out that reforms can always be undone. That’s true. But revolution and complete overhaul can be undone, too. The people’s revolution in Russia didn’t bring about lasting change. Within a decade, socialism had been corrupted into communism. Before long, Russia and then the Soviet Union were oppressive tyrannies. After “the revolution” in Cuba, its citizens still faced a dictatorship that threw LGBTQ folks and dissenters into prison.

Everything can be undone. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push Dems to the left, that we shouldn’t try to shift to Democratic Socialism, that we shouldn’t bring about Trotsky socialism. It just means that whatever path we choose, we must realize our end goals are no more secure than anyone else’s. Your system may very well be better than my system, but it’s every bit as susceptible to failure as any other.

That’s because human beings will be implementing and sustaining each and every type of system we ever develop, and no humans of any persuasion are perfect. It seems a trite and obvious point, but every day I see people who think that if they get their way, if their idea of the perfect candidate or perfect policy or perfect economic or political system is victorious, we’ll finally be OK.

We can be better, but we’ll never be OK.

That doesn’t mean we fall into cynicism or despair. We just need realistic expectations.

Protecting and preserving something great is a never-ending battle. Religious fanatics in the past decade have destroyed Persian artifacts dating back nearly 2000 years. Catholic invaders 500 years ago destroyed every Mayan book they could find. Thousands of temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques around the world, some of them hundreds of years old, have been destroyed over the years by enemies of the worshippers who met there.

We can preserve national parks against predators (you know, coal and oil companies, loggers, off-road recreational vehicles) every day for decades and decades, but all that work can be undone overnight once one of those predators finally gets in. It’s far easier to cut down a 2000-year-old tree than it is to protect it every day against every possible threat.

Holocaust survivors are murdered 70 years after their liberation from the camps. We can clean up Superfund sites, and they can be polluted once again. We can develop antibiotics, and bacteria can evolve to withstand them.

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Our work demanding justice and equality doesn’t have an end date. There will never be a time when we can let our guard down.

This necessity for constant vigilance is true in every other part of our lives. Why in the world would we expect something different in the political and economic world? Because those things are simpler, smaller, and easier to control?

We must fight to make the world a better place, but we must do so with the understanding that such an endeavor requires a permanent commitment. Every advance we achieve must be supervised and monitored. We must always maintain oversight. We must continually keep pressure on all involved to preserve each and every victory.

Part of that is recruiting and training the next generation, and the one after that, to take over the fight when we’re too old and tired to keep going. Another part is to let them come up with ideas and plans of their own. We can tag team with others so we can take a temporary break in the battle when we’re weary.

It helps to remember that past leaders may have been tremendous heroes but that doesn’t make every word they wrote scripture. If bacteria can adapt to new conditions, we can, too.
We just returned from the dentist with clean teeth and a clean bill of health, with no cavities or gum disease? That’s great, but we’d better keep brushing and flossing. If a new prophylactic treatment becomes available, we’d be wise to include it.

Folks in AA take things “one day at a time.” They understand a universal truth, that one must always maintain constant vigilance, that even thirty or forty years of sobriety can be lost with a single night of drinking.

I understand those on the left who find both Biden and Harris too weak on too many issues to support their candidacy, but if we’re going to cast a protest vote, let’s protest the clear and present danger in the White House now.

When my doctor told me I had to do three or more daily finger sticks to monitor my diabetes, I insisted on using a 14-day continuous glucose monitoring device instead. “It’s not as good,” he insisted. “You need instant results.”

“Doctor,” I replied, “you’re going to need to deal with the patient you have, not the one you wish you had.”

When I recounted the story to my husband, he said, “That’s the way we handle our marriage, isn’t it? We deal with the partner we have, not the one we wish we had.”

It sounds offensive, but the reality is no patient is perfect, no spouse is perfect. If we refuse to treat patients until they’re perfect, a lot of sick folks are going to die. If we will only marry and stay married to perfect spouses, we’re going to be alone a very long time.

Likewise, we need to deal with the political system we have, not the one we wish we had. We can certainly work to improve the system or change it altogether, but abstaining from participation in the meantime when so much is at stake is itself complicit behavior.

Once we get the exact candidate we want, though, once we establish the reforms, laws, and economic systems we want, we can still never let our guard down.
We just got back from the grocery and filled our fridge? Would any of us ever consider that a final victory?

In any event, I’ve said my piece. Everything should be fine now. And it’s time for some happily ever after semi-annual maintenance sex with my husband. He seems reluctant to head into the bedroom with me, but I really don’t understand why. I bathed last month, didn’t I? I’m good.

Johnny Townsend

Johnny Townsend