Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shutdown: A Simple Proposal

Had to share this simple proposal from Liz Medicine Crow on responding to the government shutdown. Liz has been involved in, and led, many a reasonable discussion, and it is a reminder to me that there really are ways this could work.

A Simple Proposal

By Liz Medicine Crow
There are many people analyzing, questioning, and investigating the why and the how of the government shutdown and sequestration. This note was written to look at the situation from a different angle, and not detract from the hard work others are engaged in to try to resolve what can only be termed 'a real piece of work'. I don't intend to offend folks, but rather offer a different way forward or at least a new lens to look through to inspire other ideas or solutions. Whenever I find myself in a situation where I'm not at my best, I look to our cultural ways and try to think from a collective place. It usually helps.

Sometimes it takes an assortment of "that'll never happen's" to jar something loose for others to come up with a brilliant idea! So here goes...

A simple proposal.

Utilize Native knowledge and principles of engagement to leverage the congressional stagnation that is a sell out of the very democrat principles it espouses into something better than we have.

Democracy is about citizenship. As the saying goes, when the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Let's convene a gathering of Native peoples, our friends, and those willing to try a new way of civic engagement to come together and think about the possibilities in the current situation.

Can we utilize our own values in leading a different way of thinking and mobilizing that reignites our ability to lead our leaders, I mean, our elected officials? People have stopped hearing each other, and instead of listening to what others are saying, have gotten in the bad habit of utilizing the time when their mouths aren't moving to come up with new ways to share already formed opinions. And by doing that foreclosed any real opportunity to establish a way forward. It will take real people and a methodology developed with deep heart and hearing at its core to move the dial beyond self-interest and high dosage opining.

It is a simple proposal but one that, at the very the least, comes at the government shutdown limbo from a place of rebuilding relationships with the help of Native people using tools we already have access to - Native values (human values actualized through a collective lens rather than that of an individual). It's a call for a re-centering on what and who are actually important, a call I think we can all agree whose time has come.

There are some strong, warm and knowledgeable Native people out there who know how to help lift others through the process to achieve a better outcome that works for The Peoples, not just further entrenchment into a failing stand-off. Isn't it time we try a place-based model of engagement that has stood the test of time for the First Peoples of this country and moves us into a different rhythm of operating? Lord knows we need it.

Why wait for the federal impotence to pass? Why think of this as a crisis bringing our country to its knees? My country, tis of thee. Who is thee? Thee needs to stop talking and start listening. The longer we wait for someone else to think and take action, the longer we wait.

Why don't we step into the gap and offer the solutions and then enact them? Congress is in a state of ideological inertia. Unwillingness to lead for the good of all- even those who may need more help and support than others- and willful intention to disembowel the country over individual party ideology that only affirms a small, privileged few, lands us exactly where we are. That may be the intent of a few, but don't the citizens have something to do with all of this? When one branch of this government cannibalizes itself, what can the other two branches do?

"We don't need another hero." We need the citizenry to establish a path forward. We can't leave it in the hands of elected officials and blame them for voting the way of their individual special interest- it's obvious we've given them too much authority - more than they can get along with which means far more than they need. There are many bright, caring and invested people out there, what are your simple solutions?

Let's drive ourselves together. I know, no one wants to actually spend time with people they can't stand, but if we can't make ourselves sit in uncomfortable places or actually take risks with our ways of thinking, how do we expect to get out of this situation? We can do more than we think by aligning our independent and autonomous natures into movement. Break the inertia, resolve to do what must be done and that is to agree to be better than we are.

Our Tlingit people had peacemakers, people trained to bring balance. Other indigenous cultures had similar people and processes. Our system needs an infusion of this type of equilibrium. It may provide a way to restore by bringing people together rather than letting them push further and further away- after all that is how fanatics are born, right?

This is our reality. There are some within the government whose beliefs and principles have sabotaged the way forward at the expense of The People of the United States. Under the US Constitution, that's generally considered treason. In a company, that would be called failure to uphold your duty of loyalty. We are not living the dream here, people! We are not free thinking citizens engaged in a democratic society if we wait for the 'leaders' to lead. They have shown that they are in need of our action. Invite them to participate in true citizen lead government- for the people, by the people. And our Native peoples have the tools and knowledge to help strengthen the outcome that would actually put us in a place of empowerment. Are we willing to do it? I look to my left, I look to my right, and I see the very fabric of Native culture and values as a blanket of support for all citizens. This country needs it. Despite all we have survived, isn't that something worth investing some time in?

How can people, Tribal governments, state governments, non-profits, foundations, and all other organizations or societies step forward in the breach of national representative leadership and come together utilizing a framework of dialogue and deep thinking?

As Native peoples, struggling to overcome years of belittlement and degradation, can we help undergird the national ecosystem of citizen action? By being who our Ancestors trained us to be, using tools of engagement to convene open forums, task diverse leadership teams to establish thoughtful ways forward that have stood the test of thousands of years of trial?

Step 1. Meet using indigenous principles. Agree to uphold them. You can't withhold consensus to forward movement, but you can offer solutions for deep and critical thinking and dialogue. And then, you get on the bus. Don't be afraid of change, even if dressed in clothes you would never wear. Change is what is needed. Not anarchistic change, not revolution or civil war, but rather civil peace. After all, these leaders reflect our society. Let's hold ourselves accountable, plan a different outcome and do it.

Step 2. Resolve to come up with solutions that look over the horizon. The current crisis is an impetus but it is not the boundary.

Step 3. Act. Track. Measure. Deal with emergent issues as they arise, placing in the priority que. Not everything is an emergency. Take care of people first. They have to commit to being part of the driving solutions- no bureaucratic posturing, no 'placing monkeys' on other peoples backs (meaning you can't do your part because so and so has to do theirs; that's a cop out and lack of accountability- find a way around unworkable positions). Let's get over ourselves collectively.

Step 4. Celebrate each step forward, focus on strengths, evolve and grow consensus, keep moving. Why are we here? Being here doing this work matters. Don't confuse leadership with politics again- they are not the same thing. Take time to be thankful for all that we have. And we have a lot.

Step 5. Repeat until resolved. Then repeat again.