Friday, September 19, 2008

Who said being a citizen is easy?

I usually blog about newsworthy issues like liquid natural gas and offshore drilling. But not today. Here we are in the  final weeks of what seems like the most important national election of my lifetime, and people in my circle of friends are complaining that the political competition is tiring them out, confusing, or boring.

Usually they finish their complaint by asserting that it doesn't matter anyway, that whoever wins, it won't make a difference. 

I'm here to say, suck it up and stop copping out.

No one ever said it was easy being a citizen. 

Of course, no one ever really instructs us in what's expected of citizens of this great country. We take for granted that we not only get to vote, but also to write, phone, email our representatives if we so choose. Likewise, our ability to run for office, or, unwilling to take on the job ourselves, to support candidates we favor with our money and time. We even get to engage in public demonstrations--sometimes, these days fenced in by hostile police, sometimes beaten or arrested, but at least there's always an outcry when that happens and some resolution of the matter later on.

For comparison, just ask the people of China what it's like not to have the freedoms we citizens of America take so lightly. Start with the Chinese citizens who applied for permits to protest during the Olympics, and got arrested for just asking. Or the people of Myanmar, better known to us as Burma, where even outside aide to tsunami victims was blocked by the military government. I could go on...and on, but you get my point.

With Wall Street collapsing while the top executives walk away unscathed, with health care out of reach for so many, with our infrastructure falling down, a ruinous war still in progress, now is the time to make being a citizen a top priority in our lives. Above watching our favorite sports teams, tuning in reality shows, getting our nails done, shining the car, and any of the other optional diversions on which we spend time.

Now is the time to bother to listen carefully to the competing claims, and anyone who does look at the platforms of the Republicans versus the Democrats, or at Obama's resume and positions versus McCain's, will find it impossible to claim both will bring about the same future. Who gets elected matters, and I don't just mean who gets to be president, but who gets into the Senate and House of Representatives.

Inform yourself and then use the tools we have as citizens. Donate money to your favored candidates. Could be the best investment you'll ever make, one that might actually protect your portfolio and the Social Security benefits you hope will be there when you need them. Stop avoiding political discussions with your friends (how many times have I heard people stop conversations with the flat assertion--I never talk politics? Well, why not?) Such discussions help us clarify our thinking.

If you feel strongly, go make phone calls to voters in other states or otherwise assist in the campaigns. Or, go help with a voter registration effort.

Give it a try. You just might discover that this reality show has all the others beat.


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