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Judith Greenberg, Ph.D. Headshot

The Real Revolution

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Last month a video circulated on the Internet that considered refusing to vote to be some form of revolutionary engagement. On an election day, I urge you to consider the consequences of such inaction.

During an interview with Jeremy Paxman of the BBC's Newsnight, comedian and actor Russell Brand put forth the "radical" proposal of not voting. At first glance, the anger Brand expressed in the interview evokes the classic scene from the 1976 film Network, in which anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) screams, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" on the air, inciting the nation to shout with him from their windows. Brand purports to stand on the side of the good -- wishing to avoid planetary destruction, level of the massive economic disparity in the world, and hear the needs of the people. But don't cast him as furthering such ideals so fast.

Not voting reinforces rather than defies corporate power structures. Distinguishing his "indifference and exhaustion" from apathy, Brand suggests that abandoning our voices will silently (telepathically?) send a message for utopian change. Hardly. Are the 47 million Americans who just lost aid from food stamps after the Republican-dominated Congress cut the allocation of their benefits screaming "don't vote!" out their windows? When women in Texas are denied abortions dues to new restrictions, do they appreciate the "revolutionary" act of not electing pro-choice leaders? How many parents struggling to make ends meet when their children fall sick because of failures of paid sick leave legislation are embracing Brand's exhaustion and indifference? I imagine Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott turning in their graves. Then again, as a white man from a former imperial power, maybe it's just hereditary. Or maybe the Tea Party paid him, one never knows how broadly their tendrils reach.

In all seriousness, I don't think Brand is on the take from the Koch brothers. I've actually heard him speak eloquently for genuinely ethical issues. But voting is not to be dismissed, by any of us. Those who most need aid, public education, and access to reproductive freedom know that legislation does make a difference. Look how miscounted votes in 2000 led to the Bush presidency. Consequences can be dire.

Which brings me to my delight to be able to vote today for Democratic nominee Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York City. In opposition to Brand, and with the force (although not the madness) of anchor Howard Beale from Network, I want to call us to say, "we're not going to take it" to the radical and growing inequity among rich and poor, to the failures towards the most disadvantaged children, to the injustice of racial profiling and to turning a blind eye of indifference or exhaustion to the needs of most of the city's people.

When I joined the "Women for de Blasio" committee at the start of the campaign season, I met women from all five boroughs, women of all ages, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds. Diverse as we were, we chatted easily with one another, uniting to nominate a mayor with a vision that encompassed all of us. I came back from each meeting energized and inspired by the intelligent and politically engaged women I had the good luck to meet in this process. The meetings were far more utopian than anything I heard in Brand's agenda. This past Saturday, I attended the "Women for de Blasio" committee's "Get Out the Vote" rally with actresses Cynthia Nixon and Susan Sarandon, City Councilwoman Christine Quinn, State Senator Carolyn Maloney and Democratic nominee for Public Advocate Letitia James, among other prominent, powerful and inspiring women. Among the diverse group assembled on that warm afternoon, I saw women in tank tops that revealed bra straps and women in full black hijab and robe, men carrying babies, and children holding Bill de Blasio signs. Let's all unite and get out the vote. That's what makes New York City great.

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