Today is my daughter’s first birthday which makes me happy in ways that the keypad won’t allow me to express. It’s been a great year for our family and each day brings us new joys with fun and amazing experiences. Her birthday has a secondary special meaning for me as it means we have 17 years left to get statehood. When she was born as part of all those various feelings of protectiveness, love, and adoration that I felt I did have another feeling that most parents in the US don’t have: a sense of obligation to make sure that when she turns 18 she has full citizenship rights, something she won’t have if things don’t change here in DC.
I have always been a democrat (emphasis on the small ‘d’) which means I believe that government derives its power from the consent of the people. Right now that doesn’t hold true for those of us here in the District. About a decade ago, in the lead up to the Iraq War her mother (we weren’t even dating at the time) and I and some friends organized a postcard campaign in opposition to the War. The four of us who organized it were all District citizens so we ended up sending the post cards to Tom Daschle who was the Democratic Leader at the time in the US Senate. Although, he had significant power and sending the postcards to him made good sense it also occurred because we had no representation in the Senate ourselves to send the postcards to or to set up meetings with.
I don’t want my daughter to have to worry about not having members in our national legislature that she cannot go to for matters of war and peace, or matters about school loans, or health care, or reproductive rights, or environmental laws, and on and on. I want her to grow up in a peaceful world where we don’t invent wars of convenience and I want her to feel that she lives in a democratic place and has people she can voice her concerns to while also being able to hold them accountable for their votes and actions at the local polling place every few years. We need Statehood for those of us who can vote now and we need it for those who will vote soon. For generations those of us who believe in civil rights and are true democrats have long-lived by the phrase: one person, one vote. That phrase means nothing if you just have shadows to vote for.
The statehood movement is growing and I hope its growing community by community across the District. In my mind each year at the winter solstice in addition to the joy of celebrating my daughter’s birthday there’s also a countdown in my head. We have 17 years left to fulfill a promise in my head and really to fulfill the promise of American democracy to our 601,000 fellow citizens here in the District.