Today is the penultimate day of the New Hampshire Rebellion, a 185-mile, north-to-south walk across the state of New Hampshire in support of eliminating corruption in politics. The walk began at Dixville Notch (historically, the first town in the nation to vote in each presidential election), then moved through Gorham, North Conway, Laconia, Concord, and Merrimack. Tomorrow it finishes up in Nashua, just north of the Massachusetts border. Headed by Rootstrikers' Lawrence Lessig (also of Harvard University), the goal is to create a swelling awareness of the ways in which money corrupts our political system. It’s a noble cause, and one I wholly support.
Well, perhaps not wholly. I’m not walking.
It’s not that I found out about it too late. A good friend, Eric Byler (filmmaker, activist and head of CoffeePartyUSA), told me about it well in advance of the event. He knows the topic is important to me, and knows I live in New Hampshire, so thought it a no-brainer that I would want to get involved.
I have a host of weak reasons for not walking. First of all, it’s really, really cold here in New Hampshire (as I sit here the temperature is cresting at six degrees), and I’m not as young or hearty as I once was. Also, my wife is out on the west coast this week and I have two dogs, with no real way to have them cared for even if I had decided to take an entire day (or more) to trudge through the cold. And then there’s the whole transportation thing. If I drove to where a day’s walk started, then how would I get back there after the walk? I’d be stranded without transportation. Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m an introvert, and don’t generally enjoy hanging out with groups of people.
Poor excuses all, and so I feel a little guilty about it. Real activists, I’m trained to believe, are those who actually get out there and do things. People like Eric and his partner, Annabel Park, who spent months trudging through the south in search of their Story of America. People like Riki Ott, co-director of Ultimate Civics and co-founder of Move to Amend.
Me… I’m a writer.
So I wonder, constantly, whether I’m an activist in any real sense of the word. Strangely—given the previous paragraphs—I’ve decided that I am. I do something, the thing I’m good at. I write about what I care for with respect to our social contract, focusing on the ways in which we should share our common space and strive for honesty, truth, and integrity. We’ve all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword. Perhaps you don’t accept Bulwer-Lytton's overused cliché, but you must admit that the pen can be at least as mighty. Look at what Twitter has wrought, and that’s certainly all about the pen. Or the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., so quotable that they still (and probably always will) continue to move people toward change.
What’s important is not the how or the what, but the caring, and if I show my caring through words then, yes, I guess I’m an activist.
If you care, and can contribute in the best way that you know how, then you, too, are an activist. Maybe you walk for an ideal. Maybe you risk arrest. Maybe you make films. Or maybe, like me, you write. Whatever you do is worthwhile, as long as you do it because you care.
So then: How do you care?