Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why I Talk About Politics All The Time

It is no secret to those who know me personally that I am a political junkie. When people see me, they will literally walk to other direction in fear that If they don’t, I will start talking to them about the debt ceiling or corporate influence on campaign finance or some other infernal thing that I‘d recently made me “cause of the week”. (Im that guy). This is not something that I am embarrassed or ashamed about. It may not be normal. It may not even be healthy. But there are so many complex issues facing our nation (and our planet) that it is literally impossible for me not to spend most of my waking hours thinking about them or studying them. As a matter of fact, I am completely baffled that most people do not spend as much time worrying about, studying and thinking about these problems too.

Most people that I know look at me like I have five heads when I ask them their opinion on campaign finance laws, or consumer protection, or reformation of the criminal justice system, etc. Certainly there are a lot of people who care as much or more about political issues than I do, and quite frankly many of them are doing a lot more about than I ever have. But why is it less acceptable for me to talk about politics all the time than it is for most people to never talk about politics at all (or even think about it for that matter)? This is a question that haunts me and it probably always will. I mean, wasn’t that the whole point of our revolution? Is that not what supposedly sets us apart from the “uncivilized” world? The fact that we can say and do and be whatever we want or petition our government for grievances when we see fit? If this is a government by and for the people, than where the hell are all of the people?
I am often critical of America. I routinely criticize our government, our justice system, our military actions, our economic system, our political system, etc. You name it and, chances are, I have at least a little bit of a problem with it could probably go on a ten minute rant about it if you allow me to. But why is that “abnormal”? Why doesn’t everyone want to do that? I hear a lot of people (especially these last couple of years) complaining about “greedy politicians” that only care about getting re-elected and “special interests” that only care about making money. But what do people expect? Government does not exist to hold itself accountable. That is what the citizenry is supposed to do. And we don’t. And only an informed citizenry can do it properly. And we’re not. Not only do I see a citizenry that is seemingly unwilling to hold government accountable, we are unwilling to take the time to hold ourselves accountable for holding up our end of the bargain. I would submit to anyone reading this: If you do not know your Congressman/Congresswoman or Senators' voting records than you have absolutely no right to complain about their job performance. If you do not know how much money we spend (or don’t spend) on healthcare, the military, entitlements, tax subsidies, education, environmental protection, or anything else that our government spends money on you do not have the right to complain about our budget. We live in a corrupt imperfect society with corrupt imperfect people in it. Yet somehow the vast majority of people in our country seem to think it is possible to not pay attention to what government does and somehow not get screwed over by the results. This is absolute lunacy! Our democracy is about more than voting it is about participation and accountability. I realize we live in a fast paced world, but I am unwilling to accept that each and every person cannot find one hour a week to look at the political system and figure out what is actually going on. If we do not force our government to work for us it never will. Don’t get me wrong, I get why people don’t pay attention. I realize that many of us have become angry, frustrated and disillusioned by the constant fighting in Washington. We are sickened by the knowledge that our government is beholden to special interests. We wretch at the thought that our votes won’t matter because all of the people we elect are indebted to lobbyists and corporations who paid for their campaigns. These things are devastating to us. And yet, almost each and every one of us colludes with these things that we despise through our apathy. We are failing ourselves as a country not because of who is in Washington D.C. or who is in the White House, or what lobbyist is paying off what politician. We are failing ourselves because we are not upholding our end of the contract.
We live in the world’s last remaining super power. We may not always hold that distinction. But, for now, we do. And with this position comes not only privilege but responsibility and obligation. The very way that we live our lives, the way we choose to consume or preserve resources, the way we vote, the way we protest, the pressure we bring to bear on our government, all have a powerful impact far beyond the borders of our great nation. We must not continue to suffer millions of our own people to be poorly educated, poorly cared for, corrupted from childhood, and doomed to apathy mediocrity. If we do, how can America continue to live up to its historic burden and responsibility of being a voice for the world’s voiceless? How can we inspire others to demand freedom if we are no longer able or willing to secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves? I for one am unwilling to simply stand by while the legacy of my forbearers is not lived up to and honored. How easily it seems we have forgotten how many times our nation has been confronted with evil, and hardship and pain. How sad that we have forgotten that each time she has risen to become stronger than before. That is the collective American Dream. That dream slipping away has nothing to do with jobs, or economics, or banks, or political footballs, or elections or any of the other things that most of us have trained ourselves to ignore for fear of losing our minds if we do not. We do not need guns or assassinations or revolutions to reclaim the American dream from our dysfunctional government. We have the power of our hearts and our imaginations within us. And history tells us that this is all we need. This is the legacy that has been passed to us that can never be taken away by a Wall Street bank or a political party. Our ancestors proved to us that we are capable of anything that we put our minds to. We do them, ourselves, and the entire family of humankind a dis-service be refusing to live up to that legacy. I intend to use every fiber of my being to live up to it because that is what makes me an American, not a Pledge of Allegiance, not Mc Donald’s, or Google or the Space Shuttle. Our shared history, our depth of heart, and the enduring will to better ourselves through collective action and fortitude is what defines us. This are the inheritance that we were all given. So yeah, I do know that I annoy people when I talk to them about politics. But I will never stop. I feel like it is part of my duty as an American to do so. So, if you are reading this I implore you to ask yourself if you are living up to your part of our shared duty as Americans. And more importantly, what are you doing to encourage others to live up to theirs?

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