2011-07-31

Participate!

Everyone’s sick of hearing about the debt ceiling. You’re probably sick of hearing about Congress and Washington in general. And with good reason. They repeatedly demonstrate how inept and corrupt our system of government is today. But they didn’t get there by themselves. Someone, lots of people, voted them in. It’s tempting to shut down and shut out political events, but this is lazy. It’s simple to slip into apathy. It avoids confrontation. But it’s the wrong approach.

It’s easy to be cynical about the state of governance in this country. It seems dysfunction is rampant in virtually every statehouse in the nation. It’s easy to be mad, to fling all the blame upon their elected shoulders. And we should be upset. It’s incredibly disheartening to watch this happen. It’s disheartening for our patriotism. It’s disheartening to see the effect this has had on our international standing, to watch our nation become a laughingstock across the world. It’s disheartening for our future.

But we cannot slip into apathy. Even though our parents and grandparents had a much larger role in electing those in Washington, our generation can change it. Our elders won’t be here forever, and we have to be prepared as a generation to take up the responsibility of a participatory democracy, to be an educated populace. We can have a say, and we can make what we think known.

But we have to say it.

We have to participate.

We have a role to play in this democracy, and too often we forfeit it. We don’t participate, then complain about the way things are. Like my dad told me, If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.”

As much as it sucks to realize it, our elected officials have very real influence on how we live our lives. Every single one of us is affected by the rule of law they are called to create and uphold. If you shop at a grocery store; if you own property, if you buy anything, the government has an effect on your life. If you have a kid, if you start a business, if you go to school, these elected men and women have touched your life. Hell, if you breathe air and drink water, you have a very real and immediate interest in how our nation is run. So no matter what the issue is, no matter how repugnant your congressmen may be, you have to participate. You have to care. You can’t tune it out.

It’s attractive to drop out, at least on the surface. Life goes on, the government still functions, and pushing politics out of your life can be a relief. But then a funny thing happens. People start referring to government as them,” an alien life form sent here to infiltrate and suppress our lives. But we are them.” We elect. We vote. We are responsible for the people that hold office. When we start tuning out, we start seeing the government as something we can’t change. But we can.

I see this in Starkville, Mississippi, where I live now. City officials hold public meetings and round tables, and only people with a vested, direct interest show up. No voice of the general population is present. The result is that the rules and ordinances of the town are steered by a very small minority of the population, often in conflict with the general desires of the population. If you ask someone about an issue, they usually have something to say about it. But when it comes to speak out about it, they are nowhere to be found. In Starkville in particular, one of the main roadblocks keeping it from becoming a standout college town is the apathy of the college students. I know I’m guilty of it. But we are one of the largest voting blocks in the town, and if we mobilized behind something and spoke out about it, we could shift the debate substantially. Why don’t we?

So here’s a challenge: do something about it. Take an hour or two, whatever time you would have spent watching TV or checking Facebook, and read about the debt ceiling. Find out what’s going on in your state. Read your local newspaper, and make sure you read different perspectives. Become educated on what’s happening.

Then take another step: write your congressmen. Their websites are easy to find. Write a letter, call or email. Tell them what you think. If you feel like your one letter won’t make a difference, you’re right. WE have to do this. We are not autonomous beings living our very own, independent lives. We have to do this together.

You only have so many days. Kill the distractions. Do something.

Here’s some links to get you started:

And if you are really interested in developing a well-rounded, intelligent perspective, don’t watch Fox News (or, at least, don’t only watch them). Here’s a big reason why:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox News’ False Statements
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

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