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My name is Jo Banks, and I write this on Saturday, the 58th consecutive day of going down to State Street, behind the Idaho State Capitol from noon to 1 p.m. to put up signs and American flags to cheer for American values. I am joined by my family, friends, neighbors, and a growing number of fellow citizens. During that noon hour every day, people drive, cycle, and walk by. They honk their horns, they wave, they give us thumbs up, they give us the finger, they cheer, they yell. They notice.

Why are we there? The main reason for this daily journey is to create awareness and to remind people of some core values that unite us as Americans. These include Equality, Justice, Truth, and Common Good created by citizens working together. These come from our Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and other key national documents. It’s more important now than ever that we don’t forget them. We are motivated by the recent awareness and widely viewed violent acts of racism such as the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice and sadly, many others. We believe to be silent on this kind of brutality is to be complicit. We are also motivated by the long-term struggle for respect, equality, and the end to racial discrimination and injustices that have been a constant of the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

How can we affect positive change? What is our most important message? We want people to exercise their right to vote! It is the greatest right of our democracy. We need to use it. It is miraculous what voting can accomplish. We are not socialists. We are not communists. In this country, the power of the government comes from the people. We want people to be aware of what is going on, to educate themselves, and to be sure to vote. The recently deceased civil rights leader, Rep. John Lewis, said, “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.” We believe he is right!

We will be behind the Capitol every day through Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Do we want money? Do we want subsidies? Do we want handouts? No. We go there as concerned citizens and are not paid to spend our lunch hour behind the Capitol. We are all taxpayers and, in many cases, have been so for over 50 years. Do we want an increase in government spending? No. What we do want is to raise the awareness and transparency of how that money is spent. How much is actually going to education, child care, mental health, social services, and public safety? Do we appreciate how those programs protect the integrity of our American democracy? Protect the values of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness? Absolutely! Let’s all get engaged in how our tax dollars are spent. Is there a balance in that spending for both the short term and the long term? Are we investing in the kinds of things that can reduce the overall budget in the long run?

Tomorrow, I will be back on State Street behind the Capitol, waving and cheering. Please join us. Come and talk to us. Read our signs. Whatever you believe, get engaged. Become aware of how this great democracy works. Be a part of making it work. Come by. Honk your horn and make the commitment to vote on Nov. 3.

Jo Banks moved with her family to Boise in 1960. She is a graduate of Capital High School and Boise State University.

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