When the perpetrator of the El Paso shooting walked into Walmart on Saturday, he didn’t kill 22 people just because of lax gun laws or mental health problems, and certainly not because of violent video games. No, he came with a mission lifted from rhetoric from the president himself.
He came to “kill as many Mexicans as possible,” because of the “Hispanic invasion” threatening our country — the same incendiary, racist wording used by our president, the same ideology of white supremacy that is growing like wildfire under supremely unconcerned GOP leadership (looking at you, Mitch McConnell). It’s exhausting to see mass shootings become a more-than-daily occurrence. It is frankly terrifying to see the people in power avert their eyes from the bodies piling up and choose instead to fixate on the NRA money lining their coffers.
So, I’m speaking right to those readers who are sickened, afraid, even panicked, about the state of our country right now, when I say that we can still make change.
When the kind of change that we seek — big, structural change, reshaping of laws and change in our culture — seems too enormous to tackle as an individual activist, it’s easy to wonder what the point of trying even is. Grassroots movements can accomplish a lot, but at this point, change has to come from the top down. The El Paso shooter could have been stopped if we had different gun laws, if we didn’t have a tide of Hispanic hate in this country, and mostly if that hate wasn’t stoked by the president and Fox News. (Yeah, at this point? Fox News is a platform for white supremacy and that needs to be addressed.) And all of those changes that could have prevented him from taking 22 innocent lives can really only be implemented by the people in charge.
So, what can we do? We can change the leadership of this country.
Elections in the Senate and House of Representatives are coming up. Those elections matter so much, because if the president doesn’t have Congress on their side, a lot of what they try to accomplish will get blocked anyway. If Sen. Elizabeth Warren gets elected, for example, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wins his reelection and maintains control of the Senate, it would be very difficult for her to push through those gun control laws we so desperately need.
A little less than half of the eligible population didn’t vote in the last presidential election. Millennials routinely have the lowest voter turnout, even though they have much more to lose from the results of elections than older generations who are — pardon me — nearing the ends of their careers as voters. It doesn’t make sense that we 18-29 year olds don’t vote even though we are the ones who will be primarily dealing with a burning planet, a collapsed economy, and an epidemic of gun violence.
If we want change, we have to vote it into office. But even that can feel pointless at times, so I implore you: Do more.
Pick a Senate race and join the fight.
Campaigns are run on donations and volunteers and spreading the word and getting new voters to join their side. You, dear reader, who may be feeling like there is absolutely nothing you can do to change the way things are — you can do that. It’s really easy to volunteer for a candidate and start making cold calls, signing up new voters and going door-to-door.
There are a lot of really important races to be run next fall — including here in Iowa. Sen. Joni Ernst, who voted to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court is up for reelection. So is Rep. Steve King, who has a long and detailed history of supporting white supremacy.
The presidential election is important, but so are the upcoming Congressional campaigns, and their margins for success or failure are small enough that a few well-placed efforts, such as a solid campaign on Iowa State’s campus, can have a much heftier impact. Donate to campaigns you support, volunteer for ones you can impact. This is how you can make a difference.
Tired of seeing this country go to the shredder? Yeah, me too. Now pick a race.