Let’s be real: the world is full of very terrible things. Hate, violence, misogyny, homophobia, police brutality… suffering surrounds us, and there’s a whole lot of people telling us we can’t do anything about it. Of course they want you to think that. If you believe them, you won’t fight them.
There are lots of ways to fight monsters. Voting is one of them, and one of the most important. Everyone who is able to vote should vote.
But voting is just one of our weapons.
When I’m not writing, I’m a community organizer, which means I bring together people who are impacted by a problem to fight collectively to fix it. I’ve been privileged to have helped win well over a hundred concrete policy and legislative changes. I work with homeless folks, who face innumerable obstacles to civic participation. They’ve been displaced from the neighborhoods where they’re registered to vote. They’re sleep-deprived, from cops kicking them awake every couple of hours and telling them (untruthfully, and illegally) that they can’t sleep on the sidewalk. Many have been disenfranchised by the prison-industrial complex. Many are single moms with a job or two. And still, they fight to fix the problems they face.
We’ve had politicians tell us to our face that homeless issues aren’t a priority because homeless people don’t vote. We know that’s not true – we’ve organized voter registration at soup kitchens and had huge success – but we also know that it’s on us to challenge the myths and make homeless issues a priority. And we do a damn good job of it. We hold press conferences. We organize marches. We build coalitions with other directly-impacted groups. We’ve torn down fences and built tent cities on vacant lots. We’ve occupied the officers of politicians who won’t do the right thing. We’ve gone to their home neighborhoods and handed out flyers telling their neighbors about their bad behavior.
So, YES. VOTE! Vote in every election. Talk to your friends and family and the barista at the corner, and encourage them to vote.
But understand: voting is not the end of our work. Sitting on our hands between elections is not an option. Call your representatives; challenge BS on social media; give to worthwhile causes. HIT THE STREETS. Even a big win in the next election won’t make hate vanish. Lots of people thought that electing Barack Obama had driven a stake into the heart of American racism, so they sat out the next eight years… while toxic racists were laying the groundwork to put a xenophobic rapist in the White House. We need to be out there, raising our voices and building together.
And if you can’t vote, because you’re too young or you’re undocumented or you’ve been disenfranchised by the prison-industrial complex, that doesn’t mean you have no power or that you can’t make the world a better place.
I’m a young adult writer, and I don’t see my writing as separate from my community organizing. Both are intended, in part, to send love and support to people who’ve been marginalized, and show them how much power they have. With my new novel, Destroy All Monsters, I wanted to talk about all the ways we fight the monsters we face in our world, even when they seem too big and strong and powerful to destroy.
As my friend James Tracy said in a brilliant poem, we vote every day. By calling out hate, by giving love to folks who need it, by being the best friend we can be, by believing people who challenge toxic behavior – by heading to the polls – by protesting – by calling our elected representatives – we are voting every day to make the world a better safer happier place for everyone.