It’s not time to give up; it’s time to show up!
Have you heard the story of Leicester, England, where citizens rallied against smallpox mandates in the mid-1800s? They flipped the seats of their local government and became a stronghold against England’s one-size-fits-all 1867 Vaccination Act for 60 years until the law was repealed in 1948! The Act required all parents to present their babies for vaccination or face fines, seizures of property, or imprisonment. It resulted in thousands of prosecutions of noncompliant parents.
Protests culminated in a massive, now-historic demonstration and town hall meeting in 1885, which became a tipping point for the next election cycle in 1886 — the majority of candidates elected opposed compulsory vaccination. Prosecutions of parents in the town stopped and the new local government implemented sanitary and quarantine measures instead of vaccine mandates, which went down in history as the “Leicester Method.” Despite fear-filled warnings from governments and medical doctors around the globe that Leicester would be ravaged by smallpox, the town remained one of the least afflicted by the disease.
What made Leicester such a success story for medical freedom? Simply this: The citizens remained engaged and kept voting for representatives who would stand for their rights.
One historical scholar noted other local governments “were, of course, also opposed to compulsory state vaccination, but none maintained such a consistent and uncompromising attitude as did those of Leicester.”
The guards at the gates: Why you need to vote local
If your home is your castle, local government is the castle walls. The people who live in your community, whom you can meet and interact with in your neighborhood, are your most important line of defense against overreach by state or federal officials. Their lives and livelihoods are affected in similar ways as your own and they are more invested in protecting your community than officials who must balance your needs against the needs of an entire state or an entire country. They must look you in the eye when explaining their actions (or inactions) as your elected official. That level of accountability fades fast the farther away government is from your home. In short, the more local your involvement, the more influence you can have.
We want health care decisions to be made at the family level. We want to restore privacy to our homes. Community sports rules, how we shop and dine in our communities, and how our children are treated at school are all determined by our local authorities. We may have orders that come from state or federal governments, but ultimately it is our local leaders who choose whether or not to enforce those rules in our communities.
Medical freedom must be fought for at the county level when your state and federal governments are assaulting your rights. Mary Starrett, a county commissioner in Oregon, explained her actions and challenges as a commissioner standing against bad COVID policy in an interview with SHF Executive Director Leah Wilson. Listen to her story for a real-life example of how important it is to elect and support local people who will stand for medical freedom so they can fight unconstitutional policies in our communities on our behalf.
It’s critical to our freedom that we support people who will stand for our rights against state or federal governments that have more money and more resources, but less interest or investment in families in our cities and towns. Commissioners or council people may need support to bolster the strength of character to bring lawsuits against the governor. They pay a huge political price when they go against the prevailing narrative. As Commissioner Starrett explains, officials face recalls and pushback from state officials for not implementing a governor’s orders.
But what about corruption? Does my vote count?
It’s easy to feel powerless when voting or using your voice. Horrible things happen every day because of government policies that were out of our control to stop. People take office despite a large, strong opposition. Feeling helpless leads to disengagement, which, unfortunately, only makes problems worse. That’s the cycle we’re breaking when we use our voices despite our fears.
Our power comes from lifting our voices. And there are ways to give ourselves a boost of hope and to make our votes and voices heard.
When feeling powerless, focus your energies on things within your control. You’re more likely to effect change and see the results of your efforts at a local level than you are at a state, federal, or global level. Finding connection in your community will increase your sense of purpose and decrease feelings of helplessness.
Your vote is even more important in primaries and midterms, partly because you have a greater chance for direct and meaningful interaction with candidates. Historically, voter turnout is lower (which you can use to your advantage) and elections can be decided by a small handful of votes. In the primaries, you can talk to the candidates directly before they’re busy in office and when you call, they’ll remember your passion for your community and commitment to seeing good policies come from government.
Your vote counts, even if you believe it doesn’t. But if you want to do more, go for it! Some people who don’t feel heard run for office. Some make connections to create a voter bloc that is stronger together. Some learn they have the strength to keep fighting when all seems lost, passing on a legacy of courage to their kids.
Some look to the root of the problem to fix the system itself. More and more people have been calling out and fighting corruption in the voting process. Election integrity has been mentioned in more federal bills since the 2016 elections than it had been in the previous 30 years. This year, 15 states are in litigation over “gerrymandering,” claiming redrawn voter district maps unfairly and unconstitutionally deprive people of their voting power.
Corruption is everywhere, of course, but you have a better chance of having an impact locally. If you want to overcome the corruption, the more local your involvement the better.
You can also find inspiration in those who have overcome powerlessness, like the citizens of Leicester, England, who used the shield of local elected officials to fight national vaccine mandates for 60 years until the law was repealed. For more modern inspiration, you can look to the hundreds of lawsuits that challenged mask mandates and lockdowns and COVID shot ultimatums, many brought by elected officials. When you hear about counties suing governors or states suing the federal government, you know your vote counts.
If you’re not convinced yet, answer this: What do you have to lose by voting? Voting can potentially help you and your community. If you do not vote, you have no leg to stand on when policies are made that affect your medical freedom.
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
― Paulo Freire
Voting local is easier than you think.
Voting local is as easy as scrolling a Facebook feed. Facebook is the biggest town square in the digital age. Candidates, especially those challenging incumbents or fighting the main narrative, are using Facebook to get their messages out quickly and easily. During the primaries, you’re more likely to be able to get a response to your message from the candidate or a campaign manager. Take it one step further by asking for a brief phone call or attending a local meeting or event to ask their position on things that matter to you. Ask their position on deviating from state policies when those policies hurt our communities. Ask about their vision for sovereign county governance. Ask whether community resources should be used to enforce mask mandates. Start a conversation.