I wish I could take credit for the catchy demand titling my blog today; however, it was a phrase I heard in my car driving home from work on a RI Talk Radio station, WPRO.
The host, Matt Allen, was beside himself over the caller, an Occupy Providence protester, who called in to explain their grievances but when asked who her (2) Senators were in DC - did not know. "Occupy Your Citizenship!" he stressed, moving on to another caller. But in my quiet musings on the highway, the phrase kind of stuck with me…
This is going to be the third year now that I will be testifying in favor of both decriminalization and legalization bills introduced into the House and Senate of Rhode Island. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #1: when signing a bill hearing sheet, you write your name in the "Yay" or "Pro" column if you are in favor of that proposed bill. A "Nay" or "Con" would be a vote against the proposed bill.)
I will again be anxious and nervous for weeks leading up to the hearing dates. I will go through elation, self-doubt, fear, excitement, suffer physical conditions including heart palpitations, nausea, tension headaches and the like. WHY should I go through all this? I don't have to do this. There isn't a gun to my head. Another year, another group of state officials that I will look at in the eye and demand they change bad laws that prosecute regular responsible cannabis consumers like me. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #2: if you really don't want to speak, you can still write your testimony as a written statement, sign in the 'pro' or 'con' columns, hand your statement to the clerk and leave; It will be documented for State record.)
Then it becomes the Sherlock Holmes game of monitoring the legislature website for updates on the bills' progress. No one is going to call you up and say "hello, the one issue most important to you is up for a vote today! See you there at blah blah blah". Sadly, no, and I spend a lot of my preciously limited free time searching for bill numbers, marking important dates in my calendar, clearing it with my boss, making sure my kids will have dad home while I'm gone; again, it is inconvenient to me, it is not something I enjoy or look forward to, but I must ensure that I am part of this process, we all need to be part of the process, or we will never get our change. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #3: bills for the 2012 legislative session can be found on the RI legislature's website, and no, it is not easy to navigate or find your way around, and you will most likely waste an hour trying to find one simple piece of critical information.)
Some people are good at speaking. Some lobbyists are paid to be good at speaking and swaying politicians to see eye to eye on their issue. MPP (Marijuana Policy Project) is going to have a representative there, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) will be speaking, a professor from Brown University, and surely other individuals who have been negatively impacted by this war on cannabis.
I have to request early leave from a salary job, drive from Quonset to Providence, find parking, sit for hours in a hot room without dinner on a hard wooden chair, to speak out to my legislature as they smirk and check their phones, leave and never return, ask incredulous questions that relate in no way to the issue being discussed – yeah I'm complaining and rambling, and it seems like at this point, what IS the point? What is the point? Maybe this is why no one seems to care, or show up, or speak out? (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #4: Always have quarters for parking meters, a bottle of water, and a pad and pencil when going to hearing.)
The point is, never underestimate the power of you, as an individual, to change the world. If you believe you can do something, than you will most likely have the staying power and endurance and drive you are surely going to need to accomplish that something. If you believe you are powerless, you will always be powerless. Sometimes it really can be as simple as a switch in your brain and you can change your life and the world. I have a little mantra with my 8 year old son when he gets frustrated or sad: I'll say with a smile, "Change your Brain!" and we talk through the feelings and our ability to see the yin and yang, ebb and flow of negative and positive, and it really can be that simple if you allow yourself to surrender to the simplicity.
I am going to 'out' myself again. I hope that others are willing to stand with me and do the same. Sit with me, and put up with the aggravation, anxiety, annoyance, and inconvenience of having to occupy our citizenship together. Tell them how this war has negatively impacted you, their constituent. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #5: Don't let the arrogance you will sometimes experience remove you from the fact that YOUR taxdollars pay their paychecks.) I really need to know I'm not alone on this. I think sometimes, deep down, every human needs to know they aren't alone.
It is not glamorous. It is not convenient. It can be disappointing, infuriating, and yet, sometimes, it can be exhilarating. I am going to continue to believe that THIS year is going to be THE year that we get either decriminalization of possession of [small amounts of] marijuana or legalization of marijuana for personal use, and maybe even both. I am going to go through all my mental ups and downs and sicknesses and woe, and then the dreaded day will come when I'm going to demand, with a sore ass from those 200-year-old wooden chairs we have in our state house, that this war on me and my people stop.
WE will demand that they become that power to stop it as our 'Honorable' Representatives and Senators - or will WE will vote them out for leaders that will. So be the risks I take in demanding that change. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #6: Our two Senators in DC are Senator Jack Reed and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and our two Representatives in DC are David Cicilline and Jim Langevin.) How will we change bad laws if we don't know who is making laws on our behalf?
I am running as a Rhode Island delegate to the Republican National Convention. I have a six-day window to collect signatures from 225 or more registered voters in the 2nd District of RI from Feb. 23rd to Feb. 28th. I need 150 verified signatures to qualify and then Ron Paul needs to secure at least 15% of the votes in the RI Primary April 24th. (Occupy Your Citizenship Tip #7: Fellow Rhode Islanders can look up a local signature gathering drive (between Feb. 23rd – 27th) near you at RI Ron Paul 2012.) Then on April 24th you must go out and vote in the Primary for Ron Paul. Anyone in Rhode Island that supports an end to the drug war needs to support Ron Paul, and me and my fellow delegate candidates for the RI Republican Primary. Together we can secure an army of delegates voting on Ron Paul's behalf at the Republican National Convention in Tampa FL Aug. 27th – 30th. The campaign manager for the RI Ron Paul team is Mr. Gary Trott, and he has a slogan that helps me on my weakest days: "Keep the Faith."
Let's twitter our civic duties to show how we are occupying our citizenship. I'll 'tweet' the first one: "Finished writing a blog that will hopefully inspire others to #OccupyYourCitizenship"
"We're all in this together." –Red Green