Carole Levine December 26, 2023
2024 is only a few days away. The tradition of making “New Year’s Resolutions” that reflect one’s pledges to do better and do good in the coming year are a part of the traditional landscape of this time of year. It seems strange to me that it takes a specific time of year for us to push ourselves to reflect upon and put forward what we plan to do to make our lives and the lives of others better. One only has to turn to any of the many news channels at any time of the day to find that there is misery and terror in our world, in our nation, even in our backyards. But all is not gloom and doom. There are “good news” stories, but they are not the ones that seem to grab the headlines and lead the news. So how do should we approach 2024?
My first approach is NOT to make resolutions! The New Year should not just be about how we will “makeup” for what we missed doing in the previous year. It should be a time when we look forward to what we can do to amplify and built on the good of the past year and then engage with others to strengthen and build the kind of world we want to live in. I suggest that this is not the time for regrets for what we did not do, but rather a time to think about how we can make sure that we emerge from 2024 in a much better place than we are now. And, yes, that will take some time, energy, commitment and work.
So where should one start? Perhaps look first at what is most important to you. Most of us would say that’s our family. I certainly would.
How can you best help your own family engage around the issues that will make a difference in 2024? Start with some basics. Do they all vote in every election? If not, perhaps a little gentle pushing from you about how important voting is (even for those offices they don’t know anything about or care about!). You might even offer to take friends and neighbors to the polls (especially with their children so they can learn how voting works!).
Talk about the good things that are happening, not just the awful things. Here’s one: The Wisconsin Supreme Court just declared the Republican-drawn voting maps for the state are unconstitutional and will have to be re-drawn before the 2024 elections. This could shift the balance of political power in that swing state that has not existed in more than 10 years. You can explain how this decision may encourage other courts in other states to stand up against legislative gerrymandering and in so ensures that all votes are equally powerful, especially people of color who have most often been disenfranchised.
Perhaps you might want to take on the trust gap that is growing between young people and our political leadership on both sides of the aisle. A recent poll shows that no matter what the issue, neither Trump nor Biden is trusted to handle it by our younger population (ages 18-29).
Data: Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics. Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios
And this lack of trust will most likely show up
at the polls if the candidates, or those of us who believe in our electoral systems cannot convince them otherwise. A rec
ent poll from the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School showed that just 49% of 18-29-year olds “definitely” plan to vote for president in 2024, down from 57% who said the same in the fall of 2019. In 2020, the turnout for this age group was about 50%. In 2024, it could be much lower. This could be a huge area needing activists and advocates, no matter what your political leanings. Find local groups that are working with this age group and offer to work with them. Turn to them for their expertise and listen to them. Trust can only be established when those you want to engage with feel you are not there to tell them what to do, but rather to understand and support their efforts. This is not an easy path, but it is one that is well worth the effort.
I have just completed another round of vaccinations, but apparently I am in the minority. So, here’s yet another area for activism. This is no longer just about Covid. State legislatures in in Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Iowa have already passed bills lifting vaccine requirements. Other states may quickly follow them. These new laws are threatening the protections against a whole raft of diseases such as measles, chicken pox, and more and will leave many of our children and families vulnerable. That will leave our health care systems and schools vulnerable in terms of knowing that we and our children are surrounded by others who have not been inoculated against communicable diseases. Staying alert to what is happening in your state legislature on this issue, and talking with your elected officials about where they stand on this is a critical way to take action.
And the issue of abortion and bodily autonomy will not be disappearing so those who wish to advocate for this health care issue will have different options, depending on where you live. The Supreme Court will certainly be hearing the case of Mifepristone, the abortion pill, sometime this session and their decision will have impact on all 50 states. Perhaps you might want to take up the issue of judges and lawyers making medical decisions? Many states elect the judges who sit on their state district and appellate courts. Knowing what their backgrounds are before you vote and sharing that information with others is a good way to ensure that those who sit on our courts have the qualifications to make decisions that impact women’s health and wellbeing.
There are many issues. Too many for me to cover in a short piece about what one might do in the coming New Year. I have yet to talk about immigration, or homelessness or foreign policy… The list could go on.
The good news is that there are many, many good, knowledgeable, skilled people who are working on all of these issues. All of them would welcome you (and me) to join in and help them elevate whatever issue is at the top of your list. There are so many ways to do this and it can take as much or as little time as you are willing to give. But it only happens when you step up and do it. 2024 seems like a good time for stepping up. Waiting another year might be too late.
When we wish one another a happy 2024, we often wish for a year of peace. I came across this quote from the late John Lennon and it seemed appropriate here:
Peace is not something you wish for; It’s something you make, something you do, something you are, and something you give away.
Wishing you an active and peaceful 2024!