I was going to write about something else today, but I just couldn’t. After spending Monday night watching my government disperse peaceful, yes peaceful, protesters with flash grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets just to enable a cynical and shameful photo-op, some things became clear. As a nation we are pulled toward authoritarianism. This isn’t hyperbole or speculation; it is not typical election year posturing or anything else even vaguely normal or acceptable in modern America. But it is right there, out in the open and there for all to see.

We are witnessing the power of the federal government being turned on the people it was elected to serve. We are witnessing the twisting of basic constitutional protections and their bastardization to oppress and disenfranchise the very people they were designed to protect. We are threatened with the military being used domestically to take on our own people. We are watching the soul of our country being put to the test.

I realize that you support APCC and the work we do because you are worried about the environment and probably do, and should, look elsewhere for broad political commentary. But I have to tell you that a government that does what I have described above also does not care what you or me, APCC or anyone else thinks about climate change, water quality, habitat protection or air quality. An authoritarian government may or may not continue the show of public comment processes, but it certainly does not care what any of us think about its plans to allow oil and gas exploration off of George’s Bank, or its intention to block the development of alternative energy projects, or their rollback of basic water resources protections, or their plan to allow increased emissions of toxic metals into the air we breathe or the plundering of our public lands for private gain and on and on it goes. And just to be clear, these are all things done in the last three and a half years when there was an appearance of normalcy in governance. I cannot imagine what worse will look like, but I have a sense it is coming.

Shrug your shoulders if you want, that is your choice, but do so knowing this: No one knows where this stops if we don’t take action. While as individuals we might feel our voice doesn’t matter, the collective voice has always been the guiding light behind positive change and justice in America. The foundational aspect of that collective voice is the individual vote. The vote at the local, county, state and federal level all add up to give the people of this country the final say in who governs and what happens. The fall is a long way off, but we all have local elections happening soon and some town meetings. We are all able to apply for early voting ballots by mail. It is easy and secure. Go to your town website and get an early ballot application, research your candidate choices, fill out the ballot and mail it back. By doing so you will have asserted control over what may have felt uncontrollable and you will have practiced the steps you will need to follow in the fall primaries and the November final election.

Here at APCC we will continue to beat the drum to encourage you to vote. There are plenty of other things for you to do in addition, but getting educated and voting is the foundational action necessary and required of each of us as concerned citizens. Do we take to the streets because we don’t like a new EPA rule? No, probably not. But at some point, something or someone you really care about is going to be threatened and by then it may be too late, too much will have happened and too much taken away and we will have lost. It has happened before; it can happen again. Will you let it? Don’t. Vote.

Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, 1946

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.