“… Being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it…
…For while we have our eyes on the future,
history has its eyes on us.”
– Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb
Earlier this week, I asked friends on Twitter what I should write about for this blog post. While lots of good suggestions came in, this one from a teacher stuck with me: “Something solution based. Don’t just dog the other side.”
Now, a good chunk of my work is focused on accountability, which means a lot of my time is spent talking about what I’m against. And while it’s really important work that I believe very strongly in, sometimes it gets exhausting. And I know it’s not just exhausting for me, but for everyone. There are plenty of things to be against, especially as a progressive in a supermajority Republican state. But sometimes, it’s nice to tell people what we’re for.
So here it goes.
The Utah state song, “This is the place,” has been on repeat in my brain for years. (Unrelated to politics, I frankly think it’s a terrible song and is in desperate need of an update. Please, someone do a cover that will save me from my earworm!)
But this has had me thinking about the phrase, “This is the place,” a lot.
Yes, Utah was the place where the Pioneers—some of them my ancestors—settled and created a beautiful and thriving state that many of us now benefit from. And it was also the place where the pioneers and other Anglos colonized and brutalized the Indigenous people from whom they stole the land. It is the place where suicide rates are high and mental health crisis abound. It’s the place where the people had to fight for too long to get Medicaid expansion, and where a mother and her children have lived in a church for years as a way to avoid detention and deportation to an unsafe home by ICE.
This is all true, and we should continue working to right the wrongs.
But through perseverance, Utah can also be the place where everyone has the freedom to live healthy, happy lives in safe neighborhoods and thriving communities. Where families can afford housing, food, and basic necessities like medical care, and where kids of all races and across all zip codes have safe environments to learn in and receive a quality education. This is the place where we can implement a state-based public option for healthcare, invest in smart and affordable housing, pay teachers their worth, and raise the minimum wage.
Folks across Utah have a bone-deep belief in the fair treatment of, and equal opportunities for, people of all races, abilities, genders, religions, and sexual orientations. In spite of this, longstanding and pervasive inequalities continue to persist in public and private life, so much so that some lawmakers have worked hard to pass sweeping and invasive mandates for women, trans youth, and the doctors who care for them.
Similarly, the opportunity for police reform following a summer of Black Lives Matter protests was largely missed this past legislative session, and important steps on bail reform were undone. To overcome this, we must do a better job of opening our arms and ensuring everyone is able to live truly free and fair lives. This is the place where we can reform policing, end the school-to-prison pipeline, pass the ERA, work for equal pay, and protect LGBTQ+ youth and adults.
We all need drinkable water, breathable air, healthy soil for food, and beautiful outdoors where we can live and play peacefully. With a host of urgent threats facing the environment, there is an immediate need to protect Earth and its resources that sustain us all. A healthy environment is an essential part of every human’s life, and at this critical crossroads in the global climate crisis—and with our unique position as a rapidly-expanding state—This is the place where we can build clean public infrastructure, transition to renewable energy sources, and think outside the box to make a cleaner world for ourselves and future generations.
Fairness for all is at the core of a thriving democracy. People deserve to be represented by governments at the local and national levels that will fight for them, and which conduct their business in public. We are all better served when governments and elected officials are transparent, ethical, and maintain a robust and functioning public sector.
For the needs of people to be met, everyone must have a voice at the ballot box and the ear of their lawmakers, which requires fair district maps and easy, accessible voting for people of all races, geographies, ideologies, and income levels. This is the place where we can ensure easy and accessible voting, implement ranked choice voting, draw fair voting districts, and create a government that works for the people instead of special interests.
The opening line of the state song is, “Utah! People working together,” and that really sums it up. Utah can be The Place where all this happens—where we lead the way into a future that works for everyone—but we’ll certainly have to work hard and work together to get there.
I look forward to the work.