We have seen a recent increase among citizens expressing some level of citizen activism. Millions marched in towns and cities from coast to coast and border to border the day after the Trump inauguration. U.S. airports have seen demonstrations in opposition to the temporary travel ban imposed by the Trump Administration executive order. Social media has seen a spike in political activism posts. Advocacy groups are reporting a rise in people interested in participating for their causes and issues. All of this is good for a democracy.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights gives citizens many rights that we hold as tenants of our most precious freedoms.
The First amendment reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
We, as citizens have the explicit right to petition the government. The actual verbiage says, “petition the government for a redress of grievances”. Redress when used as a verb is defined as – to set right, to correct or reform, to remedy or relieve, to adjust evenly again. The First Amendment plays a major role in establishing and enabling a robust and often public political discussion.
The question is – will this new birth of citizen political engagement last? Is there the energy to continue? And what if this opportunity is wasted? How can this flood of new participants be effective advocates?
The American Citizen is the most precious resource this country has if we intend to remain a free nation and the envy of citizens around the world.
Newly engaged citizens need advocacy education to become smart activists in this new political climate. They need to understand how they can create the influence needed to drive the change they seek. There are many tactics that can be employed to generate the momentum necessary that can make their voices heard.
1. Be informed. One must educate themselves on the issues that matter the most to them. One can do this by reading newspapers, magazines, and blogs. By listening to podcasts and radio and watch television shows that help you stay abreast of these issues. Search the internet and check websites of organizations that produce studies on these issues to supplement the information that you receive from the media.
2. Discuss the issues. Share the information amongst peer groups and friends. Talk with them and listen to their views about these issues. Sharing opinions and insights will help you shape and refine your own beliefs. Even those people whose opinions oppose yours have valuable points of view. Discussion is the first step toward finding the truth.
3. Get on the record. Write, call or meet with key stakeholders on the topics that concern you. Voice your opinion. Speak out and let your voice be heard. Freedom of speech is your constitutional right, again granted by the First Amendment. You have the freedom to voice your opinion and should do so without malice to others.
4. Volunteer. One of the best commitments you can make is your time. Giving time, energy, or talent to any individual or group for which the individual is not paid defines volunteerism. Participate for the causes and issues that concern you the most. The old adage, “the more you give, the more you get”, certainly holds true in most cases. The benefit and reward of the giving of yourself often outweighs the means to which you give.
Citizens currently believe we have a totally partisan, totally dysfunctional government in Washington. There is no trust among the American people that our national government works for us. Last evening Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-3rd) held a congressional town hall in which the audience chanted “Do your job, Do your job!”. Republican Chaffetz won reelection in 2016 by 47 percent in a very republican district. The Salt Lake Tribune reports: “Utahns overwhelmingly want Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as chairman of the House Oversight [and Government Reform] Committee, to investigate President Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interests — an endeavor Chaffetz has strongly resisted. A new poll by The Salt Lake Tribune and Hinckley Institute of Politics found 65 percent of registered voters surveyed in the state support such a probe, compared to just 31 percent opposed.” Utahns are speaking out.
The American people are expressing outrage to political gamesmanship and fear that all decorum has left Capitol Hill. Many also believe that any sense of civility has been washed down the partisan drain.
We, the citizens of the United States need to stand up for political and governmental decorum, civility and ethics. We should and must demand independence of our elected officials in Washington. Make governing choices in the best interest of the people of this nation, not in your own self-interest, not in the interest of political gain, and not in the interest of your party.
There is a movement happening in this country. For a considerable time now, the people have remained silent about the need for change in Washington. If the last couple of weeks are any indication of future results, then expect more marches, protests, and political action from the citizens.
I will leave you with this final thought. In the 1976 movie entitled Network, William Holden’s character shouts, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this no more.” Are we, the citizens mad enough to engage in the governing process over the long haul? Only you the citizen can make that decision.