Was it worth it?

A coworker of mine asked me today what it felt like to have worked for several days and have accomplished nothing. And I took issue with that. Sure, judged from a national perspective, it was a failure. But, if that’s the only metric of success, it’s hard to justify doing anything, because it’s very hard for any of us to have an effect nationally.

Judged in a local context, the Oberlin Votes! effort was a fantastic success. It got the vast majority of Oberlin students to vote, galvanizing them, something the nationwide youth turnout demonstrates is quite difficult. If even half of these students continue voting, I would think it would be a success.

Plus, the huge turnout in Oberlin had a large impact on county races. Several long-held Republican seats went over to the Democrats, thanks to the Oberlin students. It’s not much, viewed from the national level, but it’s something.

We also brought a community closer together. It seemed like everybody was contributing to helping out with the long lines at the church, from local restaurants donating food, to local musicians providing entertainment, even to the plumber showing up almost immediately when the sewage system clogged under the strain of supporting that many people. That sort of event can only help bring a town closer together, and I think that’s a good thing. We start at the grassroots and build up. Every little bit helps.

Is this just post-defeat rationalization? Yeah, to some extent. All of these events would have been even more amazing if they had contributed to a win. But we did what we could. In a town of 8000 or so, we think we got about 5500 people to vote. Of those, the article said 583 voted for Bush, which leaves about 5000 voting for Kerry. That’s 4500 votes in the plus column for Kerry. Pretty astounding.

I spent today trying to figure out where we go from here. On a personal level, I’m mad. Mad about losing. Mad that the conservatives are so much better at fighting these fights than the liberals. I’m also disappointed in my fellow Americans who believe that “moral values” means things like gay marriage, and thinks that a former alcoholic drug-abusing draft-dodger is more moral than a man who fought for his country and what he believed in. How do we start changing these people’s minds?

My friend Jessie wrote an inspiring plea today for us to keep fighting. Every little bit helps. I have another blog entry that I want to do about how you deal with the situation where your individual values do not match those of the people around you. It was originally aimed at dealing with that situation in a corporate sense, but it’s clearly relevant now in a national sense. I’ll find time. Soon. Well, after this weekend, where I may be trying to double-dip at the Accelerating Change conference, and BloggerCon, a free conference that I originally got waitlisted on, but now appear to have gotten in. Fortunately, they’re two buildings apart at Stanford, so I should be able to bounce between them, depending on my interest level. I’m slightly overbooked. In all ways. But anyway.

The point is, it’s worth it to keep fighting. Even if you just live your life as well as you can, you are fighting. You are demonstrating to others that your life is worth living, and setting an example for others to follow. That’s worth a lot. All it takes is one person to stand up for what they believe in. That’s the principle of nonviolence espoused by Gandhi and MLK, and heck, it may even work.