Saturday, October 27, 2018

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1637 - Take what we have and make what we need

  “How is the election coming?” I hear this question with increasing frequency, growing concern, and snapping urgency as the November 6th Alabama General Election draws nigh. My usual response is, “It is not just uphill; it is up-mountain. However, the real question is whether we are mountain climbers.” But that is just an initial part of my response. The complete response emerges only when there is a real conversation.

  My most profound and complete response commences with the sentence, "Take what we have and make what we need." As I was growing up, my mother imprinted this life lesson on my mind, my emotions, my heart, my spirit, and my life. I have shared it widely over the years. I helped make it the motto of the Black Belt Community Foundation in its formation. It’s my life motto. Take what we have and make what we need.

  This election is not just up-hill but up-mountain. A hill is hard to climb. It takes determination and effort and stamina. But the hill can be climbed. A mountain is more than hard to climb; it’s greatly challenging. It not only takes determination and effort and stamina, it takes preparation and creativity. But the mountain can be climbed.

  In this election, the Republican side has everything: more registered voters; more money; more media; more elected officials; more control of the voting processes; more anti-voting laws; more everything. Our side has virtually nothing. A similar but worse situation existed way back in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. One side had virtually everything. The other side had virtually nothing. But we climbed the voting rights mountain.

  The 1965 right to vote mountain was straight up, slick and dangerous, with almost no footholds and or handholds. However, the side with virtually nothing was creative. We took the singing songs, praying of prayers, and marching feet and wrought a great victory. We took what we had and made what we needed, and we climbed the voting rights mountain.

  Now every statewide elected official in Alabama except one is Republican. He was elected against great odds. It was not just uphill; it was up-mountain. At first, it seemed impossible because the mountain was too high, too hard. However, because people took what they had and made what they needed, Doug Jones was elected U.S. Senator for Alabama. We took what we had and made what we needed and climbed the too-high, too-hard mountain to achieve an impossible victory.

  There are 31 statewide elected officials in Alabama. All are Republicans except one. That tells us how great the odds are against victory. That tells us how high and steep and slick and difficult the mountain facing us is. Alabama is among the two or three states most supportive of the U.S. president, Donald J. Trump. That tells us how high and steep and slick and difficult the mountain. However, it does not tell us what we can do if we are determined, prepare, work hard, don’t give up or give out, and employ our creativity. But every mountain can be climbed no matter how high, no matter how steep, no matter how slick, no matter how dangerous, no matter how difficult.

  We must be creative. We must take almost nothing and make something. We must take a little and make a lot. That’s what we have to do when we have great challenges but little resources. What resources do we have in this election? Well, there is a ready-made base of hundreds of thousands of voters who vote Democratic nearly every time. That surely is more than virtually nothing. That is even more than a little. We have to take that base of voters and inject the energy of movement and the yeast of creativity to increase and expand that base. We must take what we have and make what we need to climb the high, steep, slick mountain to victory.

  What else do we have? Again, we must be creative. There are Independents and Republicans who are having second thoughts about the direction of this country and this state. We have to reach out with clear reasoning and alternative opportunities. That’s a foothold. That’s a handhold. I know, I know, I know. So many have not responded to reasoning and alternative opportunities in the past. Instead of giving up, let’s sharpen the reasoning. Let’s burnish the alternative opportunities.

  In our hearts, so many of us want affordable health care for ourselves and our children and our neighbors. This goes well beyond the Democratic base. That’s a good foothold. Almost no one wants our rural hospitals to close. Too many hospitals lurk on the precipice of closing. That’s a strong handhold. How do we get folks to climb up with us when so many only want the ease of going down the mountain? That’s the challenge we must meet with determination and creativity.

  There is no one way to climb the mountain to victory. Each of us must start with the determination to do something in the face of great odds. Each of us must forge the courage to be creative in our approaches at a time when so many want to go back to the illusion of yesteryears’ comfort. Each of us must cultivate the commitment to use the last bit of fortitude to make a difference when so many have given up. Too much is at stake. We have no real choice but to take what we have to make what we need, to climb the high, steep, slick mountain to victory.

Epilogue – Some people look at a situation and see hopelessness. Others look at the same situation and see hope.  Still others look at the very same situation and see a road to victory. What do you see when you are faced with great challenges?

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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