The Both/And of Our Political Landscape: The Global and the Local
Most people are familiar with the phrase “think globally, act locally,” yet keeping track of everything going on in the world and in our own lives is an enormous challenge. We have more access to information than ever before and we are fatigued by the devastating and demoralizing nature of the past several years – at home, at work, and in society. Our minds and bodies are not equipped to juggle these sharp edges at all times. We are on information, sensory, and emotional overload. If you are like me, you have done exceptionally well just to show up each day with any sense of hope or optimism that things in our world and in our work in higher education can and will get better.
At night, I turn on the television or check out my news feed to relax and unwind from those realities. That escape, however, is short-lived when political advertisements begin to bombard the commercial and advertising spaces. I am quickly reminded that we are in midterm, primary election battles across the United States. Some of you may not know, but during the pandemic I moved to a U.S. state which historically leans Republican, but regularly has glimpses of turning purple as a toss-up electorate. What I’m experiencing in those ads coming across my various screens is vicious, divisive, and reminiscent of the past two presidential elections – that past is not yet behind us. When I think of “midterm elections,” my mind instantly goes to the balance of power in the U.S. Congress – both the Senate and House of Representatives – and not necessarily local politics like school boards, county executives, and state legislatures. For me, thinking globally has come easily because of how dramatic the national political landscape has been in this country.
Distracted by political theater on the national stage in the U.S., I (maybe we?) lost focus on the importance of being equally, if not more, aware of the power and potential of local politics. Just think about what liberties have come under attack in the last few months that affect local communities: The banning of critical theories and epistemologies in school curricula in Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas (among others), the passing of anti-gay and anti-trans legislation, such as the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida, and efforts to control reproductive rights and abortion. Additionally, election experts predict the predominant issues of the 2024 election cycle will be dominated by discourse around immigration and the cultural divide in the U.S..
All of these issues have one thing in common: They are assaults on identity. Increasingly, awareness of and active engagement with local elections and politics must be at the forefront of our consciousness. There are many values-centered issues, largely shaped by our identities, at stake in the next several years, and it is our city, county, and state leaders who will shape the cultural and moral environments in which we live. I believe we may have been too distracted by the actions, inactions, and divisiveness at the federal level to have the capacity to be actively engaged locally. Many local communities and states are now feeling the horrible impacts of not participating in local and state elections.
Politics is both global and local, and our containers must be wide enough to stay aware of and advocate for the issues, identities, and lives we care most about in our own communities. If we are not engaged locally, our school textbooks will continue to only tell and reflect certain (white, Euro-centric) stories and human rights may be eviscerated. Although I am not advocating for any specific political perspective or ideology, it is my observation that there is no time like the present for us to be more engaged with what is happening in our local and state governance groups and legislatures. We can and must find the capacity to be broadly informed and active in global issues, but not at the detriment of participating with vigor in our local communities. It’s a both/and responsibility, and not an either/or dichotomy.
Chris Moody, Ed.D.
ACPA Executive Director