Days of Decision

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source : Possibilitator, March 3, 2016

To believe in the possibility of change is something very precise. It means that we believe in the reality of choice. That there are choices. That we have the power to choose in hope of altering society for the greater good. Do we believe that our governments must inevitably tax the poor through stealth taxes such as state controlled gambling? Or do we believe there is a choice? Do we believe that unserviceable Third World debt could be written off, if we choose to do so? The convictions that citizens have such  power lies at the heart of the idea of civilization as a shared project. And the more people are confident that there are real choices, the more they want to vote – a minimal act – and of greater importance, the more they want to become involved in their society. (John Ralston Saul, The Collapse of Globalism and the Reinvention of the World, 2009, pp.4-5)

We Michiganders and citizens of 34 other states have a choice to make in the next weeks, those of us who choose to weigh in on who might lead the federal government for the next four to eight years.  If we are controlled by fears we will be drawn to what we perceive as the safest choice. There are certainly reasons for fear. But just as we keep kicking the response to ever more likely climate destabilization down the road with anemic  actions, failure to change the direction of our political system is more probably leading right to the edge of an abyss we cannot fully fathom from here – a bigger fear, especially for those that live after we older ones expire.
So much prognostication about who would beat whom in a November runoff is full of uncertainty – the who’s and the whom’s for starters. The complexities of our interdependent systems are so vast and emergent properties unknowable that, despite our penchant for data based solutions, the forces that are beyond measurement still have much to say about where we go together as a human family on a finite planet.
Who decides to come to the polls that day, or stay home? What shifts might occur in races for local, state and national offices? What events might occur to shift our attention to issues not even on our radar at the moment? What funds of money will be unleashed to sell one candidate or to demolish another? Nate Silver and the other prognosticators of the day, despite their ability to crunch numbers can’t answer those questions with anything like certainty. So we will decide based upon a combination of our faith in what we do know and on the hunches that fester inside each of us.


The reality as John Ralston Saul noted is choice matters and we each have it. What do we believe in? What are we willing to work for to make our collective future and that which we hand-off to our granddaughters and grandsons? Are we looking at short-term safety or longer term survival? Those are questions we might contemplate as we make our way to the polls in the coming week. As Phil Ochs once sang, these are the Days of Decision (click to listen).

Image result for phil ochs days of decision

Oh, the shadows of doubt are in many a mind
Lookin’ for an answer they’re never gonna find
But they’d better decide ’cause they’re runnin’ out of time
For these are the days of decision
Oh, the games of stalling you cannot afford
Dark is the danger that’s knocking on the door
And the far reaching rockets say you can’t wait anymore
For these are the days of decision
In the face of the people who know they’re gonna win
There’s a strength that’s greater than the power of the wind
And you can’t stand around when the ice is growing thin
For these are the days of decision
I’ve seen your heads hinding ‘neath the blankets of fear
When the paths they are plain and the choices are clear
But with each passing day, boys, the cost is more dear
For these are the days of decision
There’s many a cross that burns in the night
And the fingers of the fire are pointing as they bite
Oh, you can’t let the smoke keep on blinding all your sight
For these are the days of decision
Now the mobs of anger are roamin’ the street
From the rooftops they are aimin’ at the police on the beat
And in city after city you know they will repeat
For these are the days of decision
There’s been warnin’s of fire, warnin’s of flood
Now there’s the warnin’ of the bullet and the blood
From the three bodies buried in the Mississippi mud
Sayin’ these are the days of decision
There’s a change in the wind and a split in the road
You can do what’s right or you can do what you are told
And the prize of the victory will belong to the bold
Yes, these are the days of decision
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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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