It is safe to say that there has been a lot of vitriol spewed since the November election about the state of the American government. Protests, demonstrations, peaceful marches, congressional office sit-ins and angry citizens in town hall meetings shouting that they want answers.
Hate it or love it, the president has created a fire storm of political climate change. The president acknowledged it during his speech before a joint session of Congress last night, “Then, in 2016, the earth shifted beneath our feet. The rebellion started as a quiet protest, spoken by families of all colors and creeds — families who just wanted a fair shot for their children, and a fair hearing for their concerns. But then the quiet voices became a loud chorus — as thousands of citizens now spoke out together, from cities small and large, all across our country. Finally, the chorus became an earthquake…”. Two candidates, Trump and Sanders tapped into an America frustrated with the status quo of the politics as usual.
More Americans are now showing some determination to participate in political civic engagement and events. However, most feel they have absolutely no input into decisions made by local, state, and federal governments that profoundly affect their lives, jobs and family. And this frustrates them. To put it mildly, citizens feel their government isn’t working and are angry. They are disheartened by political doublespeak, tired of the polarization, blame game, finger-pointing, and negative campaigns all of which have been responsible for a steady erosion of citizen participation in advocacy, public policy, and the political process.
But who’s at fault here, the elected officials or us the citizens? I believe it is both.
Elected Officials are continually saying that they want to hear from their constituents. In the past, they have berated citizens that don’t engage, vote, and participate in the governing process; always claiming, “I wish more people came out, stepped up and spoke up when I have community events”. Now more people want to partake in congressional events and many Members of Congress are either not holding them at all or cancelling them. This is wrong. They should not hide behind excuses in their political ivory tower. They need to absorb what is on the ‘peoples’ minds, explain their position, and thank the people for their participation and work to form a more perfect union.
The U.S. constitution begins, “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union….” The constitution says WE THE PEOPLE. These beginning three words written by James Madison tell us just how important we are to the workings of our government. It is us, the people, the citizens of the United States, who are charged with forming a more perfect union and not simply the elected political elite. But what are we, the citizens doing to contribute? Up until the last couple of months – not much.
We cannot solve our political problems by doing the same things as we have done in the past. We must engage in our civic responsibilities. There are abundant resources available on how to call, write and meet with elected officials; as well as numerous advocacy strategies and tactics that one can employ to become a more effective citizen advocate. I have also outlined my 7 Actions of Highly Effective Advocates in a previous post you can find here. https://rogerrickard.com/index.php/the-american-citizen-our-most-precious-resource/
We expect elected officials to have some level of decorum and to operate with a modicum of decency. We want the president to act presidential and conduct himself with a tone of civility. Yes, these things matter. Decorum, decency and tone of civility are the responsibility of citizens as well if we want to have a seat a table to discuss our issues and concerns.
Here are seven unassuming steps we can take to reset the dialog:
Step One: Take a deep breath. Then take a second, deep breath. And then a third, deep breath.
Step Two: Take a step back to move forward.
Step Three: Stop pointing fingers at others.
Step Four: Stop yelling at each other.
Step Five: Take your hands off your ears and listen.
Step Six: Ask yourself, what can I do to help our country? John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
Step Seven: Be kinder and gentler to fellow citizens. Use positive energy to create, engage and drive change.
The list above is simple – our task is simple as well. If we want to have meaningful dialog among the citizenry and those we tasked to serve for us, we have to tone done the vitriol and get down to the business at hand.
We are all in this ship of state together. If the saying of ‘a rising tide raises all boats’, then a diminishing tide diminishes all boats. I choose the former over the latter.
Now – let’s all take a deep breath and then get to work!