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(In)alienable Rights

Years ago I remember staring at voter turnout rates for non-presidential elections. The numbers were striking. The 2013 St. Louis mayoral election had a turnout rate of 12.5% (PDF). I remember thinking at the time, how many people would freak out if their right to vote, which they typically don't exercise, was taken away? We want the right to do whatever we please but we can't be bothered to do the things we should or have committed to. We're too busy or something came up last minute. Its kind of like the number of people who say they're "going" to a Facebook event but actually end up attending.

Stoic philosophy says, "the way to want what we already have", rather than only desire what we lack, is to picture losing the things we already do possess. This practice is called "negative visualization".

What we are seeing for much of our country's populace at this moment is engagement and activism reflected by the loss, real or perceived, of something we took as non-negotiable or were counting on "someone else" to handle. For many people up until now, things have been good enough or while there may have been cause to be upset, it was rarely, if ever, enough to change behavior.

Years of complacence and or passive contentment with progress being made as good enough is in part what has landed where basic rights feel questioned. We didn't realize the things we hold at our core were actually up for negotiation.

For those of us seeking change and to protect certain groups of people and laws, we must act. But going forward, we must remember what we hold dear can be taken away and thus we must not squander our time or effort in sustaining and improving on them.

Despite previous mistakes and disengagement, we are the people we have been waiting for and must now come into our own.


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