I would be delighted to be wrong on this one, but I think we’re going to lose, quite a bit, in 2013.
On the immigrant rights front, from which I cannot extricate myself even if I try–I know the stories too well to be a dispassionate observer to the injustices on those front lines–it could be a very, very ugly year.
But that doesn’t mean that our only option is to bang our heads against the wall, or–heaven forbid–just to sit down and take it.
If we think about the entire framework of advocacy, and all of the different avenues that are available to us, then new arenas for change open up.
Maybe the Kansas Legislature won’t be a very fruitful venue for progressive change in 2013 (THAT was as nice a way of saying that as I can possibly muster!), but we can still think about engagement with the public, media advocacy, research and policy design, and community mobilization, among others, as paths we might take.
It may even be that, sometimes, direct policy change isn’t even the ‘end’ towards which our means are directed, at least not in the short-term.
It may be that what we need to do, and the ends towards which we are aimed, is to change the conversation, to begin to bring a fuller complement of ‘our’ issues into the dialogue, and to include a better representation of the voices that matter to us.
That’s essentially the thinking behind the “I Am Kansas” campaign, launched by an organization with which I’ve worked over the years, as part of a ‘welcoming’ initiative.
It’s about highlighting the contributions of immigrants, normalizing their experiences, and counteracting some of the negative and misleading information that is pumped into the debate, in order to artificially set the parameters of acceptable policy approaches.
This isn’t just ‘loosey-goosey’ touchy-feely stuff about helping people get to know each other better.
I tend not to get too into that.
It’s intentional, and it’s linked to a theory of change and a whole psychology of policymaking decisions, that holds that people are more inclined to be comfortable harming, through policy, those who they consider to be the ‘other’.
If immigrants are ‘us’, though, then our policy options are a bit more limited.
If we can change the conversation, and change the tone, then we change the context in which policies are enacted, and stopped.
we can start winning again.