We used to live in a Democratic society supported by a Capitalist economy. People knew that one system protected our rights and created our quality of life, and the other protected our wealth and created our standard of living. People used to know the difference and understood that each filled a different need in our culture. Now we live in a Capitalist society where Democracy is tolerated as long as it doesn't interfere with each citizen's right to become a millionaire, either by working up the corporate ladder, trading and investing, or winning the lottery. In such a society where standard of living trumps quality of life, money has become the foundation of every decision we make, it is the touchstone by which we measure our progress, it is the currency we use to express our beliefs.
Since the war began in Iraq, I have withheld my federal income tax as a protest against an illegal and immoral war. It was not good enough for me to say, "Not in my name," without also saying, "Not with my money." In this new society, money is more than just free speech, it is how we vote and I could no more have voluntarily helped pay for this war than I could have voted for George Bush in the last election. In each of the past three years I have given away approximately 30 percent of my gross income (which is not very large to begin with) to organizations that work to assist struggling families, send protective gear to military personel, and support our injured troops when they come home. Even though the IRS eventually catches up with me, I have felt as if I have been consistent in my cause and speaking in the language of our time -- money.
When I first noticed the shift in our societal structure back in the Reagan 1980s, I became disillusioned, frustrated with the change, fighting desperately to change it back, to save our Democracy. Now I see that money has become my vote and I can vote every day. I practice Democracy every time I choose to buy something -- or not buy something. I cast a vote for my beliefs by choosing where I shop and how my money is used. Every day, I am a vocal, voting, active citizen of this great nation just by being deliberate about where my money goes. There is such power in this, if we will only take it.
As the holidays draw near, it might be time to ask just what message you want to send with the money you spend. Every day is election day. How will you vote?