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A Call to Arms (from a Reluctant Warrior)

By Sunil Mehta

If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

When I first heard these words eight months ago, they made a deep impression on me, and they have remained with me ever since. The words came from the final Facebook post of Heather Heyer, an everyday citizen exercising her first-amendment rights at a protest march in Charlottesville when she was brutally murdered by a member of one of the right-wing fringe elements of our society. These extremist fringe groups, while they have always existed in America, have been given permission to come out into the open by a President whose primary mission since being elected has been to divide the country, debase our institutions and destroy every norm or standard of Presidential behavior that existed before he took office.

Heather’s words, while painfully relevant at the time she posted them on her Facebook page, have only continued to increase in significance over time, as outrage upon outrage has been perpetrated upon the nation at a dizzying pace. As the normally stolid and optimistic New York Times columnist Tom Friedman eloquently noted in a recent article, the situation has now become ‘Code Red’, and it requires our immediate attention if we are to preserve America as we know it.

Like Friedman, I am not generally given to hyperbole, and I choose my words carefully when participating in a discussion about politics in a public forum. I am a typical Indian-American technology professional who has lived and worked in Silicon Valley for over 34 years. In all my time in the Valley, I have focused on my career and have steered clear of political activism, which is described by some as a ‘contact sport’ requiring a skill set very different from my own. My longtime friends and colleagues know me as a cool-headed and mellow person, and normally it takes a lot to get me ruffled.

But these are not normal times.

As a naturalized American, I am extremely concerned that my adopted country, which I love dearly, is facing an existential threat like it has never faced before. We have somehow put a person in the Oval Office who is not just unfit to occupy the office of the Presidency but unfit to be called a member of the human race. Aided and abetted by a hostile foreign power (and an unwitting assist from the then-director of the FBI), he managed to convince enough people to vote for him by exploiting the natural anxieties and fears of an aging workforce facing the twin challenges of rapid automation and globalization. After being elected, he has shown not the slightest sign that he has the competence, integrity or character required for his office. With every passing day, he demonstrates more and more why it is so imperative to stop him from taking our nation over a cliff.

Under normal circumstances, I am a proud independent voter who has had his agreements and disagreements with Presidents of both political parties. Like many other immigrants, I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Depending on the candidate and the issue at hand, I have voted for both Democratic and Republican candidates in the various elections that have taken place in the years since I became a US citizen.

But these are not normal times.

Now, we have a Republican Party led by a man-baby who as President has the power to make the nation (and the world) dance to his tantrums and whatever whims and fancies strike him on any given day. The scary thing is that, rather than acting as a check on the executive branch as specified in the Constitution, the Republican members of Congress have become the enablers of this so-called leader’s egregious behavior. Thus, a vote cast for any Republican in Congress is effectively a vote for Trump. Voting for the GOP is no longer a valid option for rational and reasonable people and indeed for any decent and honorable member of society.

There was a time not too long ago when there were certain institutions which were sacred: our system of justice and law enforcement, our free press, our courts of law, our educational institutions. Science was respected. There was one and only one truth; it was not a function of which party one belonged to. There was an expectation of some basic courtesy and decorum in our national discourse, regardless of how intense the political disagreements happened to get between the parties. Whenever our country was attacked by a hostile power, we always rallied together and put aside our political differences in the face of a common enemy.

But these are not normal times.

Now, we have a President who seems to be on a crusade to destroy every institution we hold sacred. Science is under attack. Every inconvenient truth is dismissed as ‘fake news’, regardless of the quality and quantity of the evidence to the contrary. When the leader of the country constantly indulges in language and behavior better suited to the gutter than the White House, people begin to get desensitized and start believing this is the ‘new normal’.

Finally, and most importantly, even when it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that an adversarial foreign government attacked our electoral system and the very foundation of our democracy, our ‘leader’ not only does nothing in retaliation, but instead goes into denial mode, coddles our enemies and blames the nation’s premier law-enforcement institutions for being politically motivated whenever they uncover a piece of the ugly truth about the 2016 election or the staggering level of corruption that has infested the Presidency.

The time has come to pick a side. America is better than this. This attack on the integrity of our nation cannot stand. We the people cannot let it stand.

The path forward will not be easy. The same forces which swung the 2016 election away from the will of the people are going to be arrayed even more strongly against the forces of fairness, reason and decency in the coming months. This time they also control the levers of government, so they have the ability to inhibit and suppress the vote among certain key demographics to tilt the odds in their favor. They will utilize all the powers at their disposal to mislead the American people into making the wrong choice again, even if that choice goes against the people’s own self-interest. They will certainly not play fair.

However, they will have to reckon with the strength and resilience of America. Time and time again, whenever confronted with a crisis, America has always risen to the occasion and overcome all the odds. Our enemies during the Second World War learned to their detriment that it was not wise to ‘awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve’. Although this time the threat to our country is internal, not external, the pillars of our democracy are no less in peril, and we need to fight back hard.

Make no mistake: this is as important a war as the one that was fought three quarters of a century ago, except this time it is a war not for the soil of any nation but for the soul of America. Instead of employing bullets and bombs as weapons, we need to use the power of the ballot box. The first battle will be in November, but the war will have to be waged until at least 2020. We have the strength of numbers, but we need to make sure every single one of us stands up and is counted. If there ever was a time when staying on the sidelines was not an option, this is it.

Thus, for the first time in my life I have decided to get involved in the ground game of politics, not as a passive observer but as an active participant. I have been gratified to learn that I am far from alone in this respect, and countless formerly apolitical people have come together to build grassroots organizations with the objective of taking back our country from the party whose leader seems to be on a crusade to destroy everything America stands for. Although my initial steps in this direction were hesitant and I reluctantly made the decision to become an activist, I am now a proud member of the Resistance and intend to devote all my energy between now and November to the task of electing Democrats to Congress.

Last fall, I joined two Resistance groups whose priorities line up with mine: Swing Left and the Indivisible movement are two of the activist groups with local chapters across the nation focused on the upcoming midterm elections. I have also decided to support a group called Flip the 14 whose mission is to flip all fourteen California seats held by Republicans, even those districts deemed to be unwinnable. I firmly believe that one of the reasons that the Democrats lost so badly in the 2016 general elections is that many voters stayed home because they were disillusioned with the electoral process and their favored candidate did not make it through the primary. Making the same mistake again would be fatal, and I will be using every ounce of my persuasive powers to help ensure that doesn’t happen again.

Over the next few months, I plan to continue connecting and mobilizing with like-minded friends and relatives across the country to build up the energy for a ‘blue wave’ in November. For those of you who are hesitant (as I used to be), there are many ways you can contribute, and you can pick the one which best aligns with your priorities and comfort level. Find one or more of the grassroots organizations you like and join them. Register as many voters as you can, especially those who are young or Latino. Donate to the candidates of your choice, or better still, fundraise. Most importantly, connect with as many of your friends and relatives as possible across the country and ask them to pledge to vote in November and also to contact their own friends and relatives to ask them to make the same pledge. One thing is clear: doing nothing is not an option.

Please join me. The time for action is now — our country cannot wait. Let the sleeping giant awaken. See the original Medium Post Here

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