Every time election season rolls around, I reflect anew on the promise of our democracy, built and sustained on the sacrifices and bold vision of so many who went before us. On Election Day, though we enter the voting booth as individuals, we are in fact acting collectively with every other American voter to shape our country’s future.
But our democratic duty need not, and should not, be put on the shelf rest of the year. Each day, we have opportunities to participate; whether it’s speaking before our town council, meeting with our congressional representatives, writing a letter-to-the-editor, attending a rally or signing an online petition, each action represents a voice or idea that would otherwise not be heard.
Indeed, in the face of the moneyed special interests that have hugely disproportionate influence over so many aspects of our lives, joining our voices together into a loud and clear call for positive change is essential.
And it works. Appalachia’s proud history of labor organizing exemplifies this type of citizen engagement — ordinary people banding together to improve the lives of their families and neighbors.
More recently, North Carolinians across the state are uniting to protect their communities from toxic coal ash. Thanks to ongoing citizen pressure following the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill, Duke Energy and state officials have been exposed for their misdeeds, and there is a broad movement to hold them accountable.
In North Carolina’s High Country, the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. heard their members calling for better financing for home energy efficiency improvements. And in the coal-bearing regions of Appalachia, citizens and local elected officials are urging substantial federal investment to diversify and boost the economy.
Every day, Appalachian Voices takes action to support this citizen engagement. It’s what democracy is all about.