Let's be frank: our country is completely polarized and we have our federally elected officials to thank. Over the last eight years, we've forgotten what it means to listen and work together. This was a trend started by President George W. Bush, who steadfastly pushed his agenda on the American people and the world at large: two wars are clear proof of my last statement. The inability to engage in productive dialogue with the opposite party has unfortunately persisted to this day. No official has been willing to cross party lines for the greater benefit of our country. We've ignored the poor, the uneducated and the underrepresented all in the name of being reelected. President Obama's early efforts to bridge this gap were vehemently ignored and now he's playing by their rules.
The time has come to stop and become the country we all know we are in our hearts. I do not consider this a return to what was before 2004 because the truth is there have always been political differences and politicians who have been more interested in their campaign success than in the greater good. What we need now is a political renascence and courage is the virtue our leaders must adapt. In 1957, President Kennedy published his Pulitzer Prize winning book Profiles in Courage. The book examines eight political leaders who put their careers on the line in order to do what would benefit others instead of themselves. In the end, many did lose their elected seats, but the country was able to prosper and enjoy the fruits of their sacrifice. If politicians lead with courage their constituents will live with courage. A country that is courageous is bold and imaginative and unafraid of work. As a result the country will experience a flourish of labor, communication and productivity.
Another lesson that has been forgotten in our political world is the currency by which government works. The government does not work by money alone. The currency our leaders must employ is a trade off of ideas. In the theatre world, if I want a fellow artist to support my work, I must be willing to support theirs. This is simple. If I have a play in a month, but in the meantime three other artists are having productions, the nights I do not have rehearsal I have to make a trip to their productions and encourage them in their work. This creates a relationship where two people are willing to support each other. Politicians can use this currency. We all have different priorities and that's a given, but if we focus on our main one and tell the rest of the folks: this is where I need your support--where you need mine?--the country will move. Imagine if laws were being passed and there was a spirit of work. We would all move. But as a whole, because of the lack of activity and bickering in Washington, that's what our country is doing. We're arguing with each other without getting to work.
There is no reason to do tomorrow what we can do today. The time has come to rise to our potential. Let us be the great country we all envision. Let us listen to each other, let us all get to work.
We can't do this alone, but we can do it together. Check out our Register to Vote Toolkit that has everything you need to spread the word.
Marcelino Quiñónez is a Phoenix-based artist working on an MFA at Arizona State University. He's a program coordinator for the Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center, hosts an event called The Arts Revolution, and is currently running for a seat on Phoenix's Roosevelt School District Board.