By Matt Russell & Irene DeMaris
Have you found yourself replying to a recent challenge or an unexpected situation with something like “Well, it is 2020.” We have. At the same time, we are also inspired by how so many Iowans are embracing hopeful action as a response. In 20 days, our nation will start tallying up an indicator of our national hopefulness. Voting is an act of hope.
This year it seems so much is being disrupted. Divisions that have long existed are exposed to the point they can no longer be ignored and it feels as if they are expanding rather than resolved. We are wrestling with a global pandemic, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the worsening environmental crises, a reckoning with untenable racial injustice, and now questions are being raised about the legitimacy of our elections, questioning our confidence in democracy itself. It is tempting to see this year as a time of collapse. Our response can be a sense of dread, anxiety, and depression (and those feelings are justified). Any one of these crises could seem like it is too big for us to have a voice and effect change. Piled together 2020 can seem hopeless.
As people of faith, regardless of our own tradition, we are joined together in hopefulness. Whether we’re practicing Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Indigenous spirituality, or any number of religious traditions, hope is a common core value. In fact, we’re finding that people are embracing faith as a source of hope and action in new ways in 2020.
COVID-19 is demanding we re-evaluate how we think about public health and our health systems. We’re learning we can only fight a pandemic by working together across our communities, country, and world. What we do in response to this virus can make us, our families, our communities and ultimately the world more resilient. As we respond to the global economic meltdown, we see concretely the fragility of our economic systems and how we can expand equity in our response. In the face of accelerating climate change, many farmers, ranchers, and rural Americans are stepping up to provide solutions with a willingness to embrace new practices and innovations in clean energy and agriculture. Leaders from communities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, supported by other Americans from across the full demographic spectrum are calling for racial justice. And as the seeds of distrust are sown in our democracy, there are unprecedented efforts to encourage Americans to vote.
While some may try and explain away the actions of young people in the street for racial and environmental justice as angry mobs, the fact is millions of young Americans are organizing, strategizing, investing countless hours, and putting their bodies on the line because they believe in and are personally committed to a more hopeful future. These young American leaders are practicing powerful statements of love in action.
The act of voting is also love in action. We’re embracing our rights and responsibilities in our democracy. We are saying we believe we can make a difference. We are exercising our hopefulness for a future we are helping create.
At Iowa IPL, we have declared election day a holiday. As staff, we will spend that holiday volunteering in our electoral process. Nearly all of our work in the past three months has had some kind of focus on voter engagement. We are not supporting individual candidates or any party. We are supporting and investing in the Iowa electorate. Do your research, choose your candidates, volunteer as you can, make a voting plan, and make sure you cast your ballot. And engage your family, friends, and community by encouraging them to join you in putting your hope into action by voting.
All the challenges of 2020 are an invitation to lean into and draw strength from our faith and conscience. And with that strength we can take effective, hopeful action. And in the coming years, 2020 will be remembered not only as the year that all the bad stuff happened. It will be remembered as the year that we achieved a turning point for health, environmental, economic, racial, and democratic justice.