The morning was filled with politics. What are we for, what are we against? What matters? What could touch the heart of any individual anywhere on the planet? What slogan could unify a divided country, a divided world, a divided self?
At the end of a recent local political meeting the phrase “Count me in!” suddenly burst into the forefront of my mind. Someone mentioned the power and effectiveness of Obama’s “Yes, we can!” slogan, and also Trump’s “It’s a disgrace!” or “It’s a hoax!”
“Make America Great Again,” with four words and even more syllables, has not seemed to carry the same force as those three-word tweets; in fact, most often that particular tag line is reduced to two syllables: MA’GA. Just in the past few days count me in has become identified with participating in the once a decade census: public service announcements show people of varied backgrounds extolling the importance of being counted… counted in!
“Count me in!” captures the importance of personal choice and personal responsibility, while at the same time joining with the rest of humanity. It is personal journey, tailored to the full range of human experience and possibility. I can make it mine; I can find my “tribe;” I can express positive action about something near to my heart without excluding someone else who also wants to be counted in, but whose tribe is different from mine.
We are all joined together by three simple words: count me in. Antithetical to the exclusionary tone of many campaign slogans that offer tests of purity or shared horror, these words embrace inclusion without having to mark people” in” or “out.”
Several years ago, my then teenaged granddaughter and I watched a reality television series called Project Runway. The contestants were to create an entire season’s fashion collection in one week, after which the collection would be judged by successful designers and by celebrities who might one day want to wear their fashions.
By the end of the week the fashion competition narrows to two contenders when the host finally declares, “Justin, you’re in; that means Sarah, you’re out.” Both finalists received high marks, but ultimately one was “in” and the other, by the very nature of the process, was “out.”
“Count me in” does not require that I be sent away, thrown out, fired, or labeled a loser because I only came in second. Rather, I am permitted to have a single focus, a short list of fundamental goals, or a long list that would change the world. I can be counted in the limited stratosphere of particle physics enthusiasts, or global activists for health care or civil rights, or those who want to assure continued corporate dominance. My list could be as long as what could fit legibly on a T-shirt, or it could be succinct: world peace or whirled peas.
Count me in implies belonging, even if I am a recluse or hermit. It offers agency, choice, and power without the need to dominate another. I can be part of a shared experience, whether local or at a distance. I can transcend language and cultural barriers.
Count me in levels the playing field when there would otherwise be separations based on physical characteristics, socioeconomic status, religion, or political point of view. It permits me to support healthcare whether I want Medicare for all, for all who want it, for all who don’t want to give up self-funded coverage, for all who want union plans and employer paid pensions, and for all who want to be left alone so they can create a plan tailored for their special needs, such as prosthetics or mental health.
Count me in gives me the power to decide if I belong or not. It also provides me the opportunity to leave a particular group or cohort if I change my mind. I get to be counted or not. I get to feel a part of something larger than myself – or not. I get to belong even if I don’t know the secret handshake, because being counted in is framed by me. I get to run towards or away from an ideal as much as a political party or social act. I get to shout my passion out loud or whisper it in small font under my “Count me in!” logo.
Count me in can express values as well as actions, identity as well as legislation, financial priority as well as cultural identity or heritage. It can be a tree house hideaway in my back yard or a march of thousands in front of the White House.
Count me in. Period. No more, no less. It is enough!