Many Americans have become politically apathetic. Many consider themselves “apolitical” or they are simply uninterested in the goings on around DC. This is at the core of much of the troubles our republic is currently facing.
There are four sentiments which we have found to be the most destructive. These sentiments are the result of a system which has been in place for roughly 100 years which seeks to remove the average American citizen from the process and leave the leading and decision making to the few who consist of the “Intellectual elite.”
The first sentiment is “It doesn’t affect me.” This is the idea that no matter what our elected officials decide is the issue of the day, no matter what legislation passes or rulings come down from the Supreme Court, somehow there is an individual so removed from the world that their way of life will not be changed even remotely. In actuality, each bill that is proposed by congress, each bill that passes into law, each ruling the Supreme Court makes and each address the President makes affects us all.
If congress passes a bill which would raise taxes on people making $200,000 per year, one may argue that since they are not making that much money it does not affect them. They do not look past the immediate effect. No, taxes will not be raised on that individual, however his employer will have less income with which to maintain his current staff or hire new employees. Investors will have less money with which to invest in the company for which you work. Some consumers of your company’s product will have to cut back on their purchases or stop spending on the product all together. Eventually, the apathetic individual may find that he/she no longer has a job and will suddenly come to the conclusion that “It DOES affect me.”
It is important for the sustainability of a free republic that each person feels that they are a part of it. Each individual must understand that they are part of the ultimate check on the three branches of government-We the People. Otherwise one by one, citizens will disengage and surrender that role to politicians, academia, media and special interests.
The second sentiment is “I accept that politicians are corrupt.” There was a time when Americans held their leaders to a high moral standard. Today, Americans have accepted that corruption and lies are prevalent among politicians. Those who would expect the truth or become disappointed when a politician lies are considered naïve or childish.
The change in attitude toward the character of our leaders has been directly proportionate to our own character. For decades, we have allowed a Progressive dominated government, media and academia to dictate new morals which are vastly different from those of our founding. We now live in a world where the ends justify the means; where a person’s character is not quite as important as how well they speak in public, where morality itself is subjective and not open to judgment by the very people whom these “leaders” were elected to serve.
Dismissing broken campaign promises, infidelities, lies, half-truths and greed as the standard has left us with a system that discourages good people from running for office. We laugh and suggest that the DC crowd will either corrupt them or swallow them whole. What we fail to understand is that politicians lie because we excuse it. Politicians cheat and steal because we brush it off. The reason we allow this behavior could probably be best described by the remaining two sentiments.
More so than ever, people are of the sentiment that “I can’t make a difference.” We have been forced into a group mentality wherein there is no strength in the individual but only in numbers. That is why you need to join a political party or a union or a cause because only through these groups could you possibly affect change and even then it’s not you, it’s the “group”. This sentiment is patently incorrect and only serves to create division and anger.
A group is made up of individuals. It is usually started by an individual who uses his individual will and freedom to grow support for his idea. You can’t get to 1,000,000 without starting with 1. History is marked by individuals who took a stand when the world was seemingly against them. From Moses, to Jesus, to Joan of Arc, to Gandhi to Martin Luther King, individuals have not only made a difference but have altered the course of humanity as we know it. It does not take leadership from an elite group who knows better; it takes one person inspired to do what is right. To borrow from Gandhi, “We must become the change we want to see.”
When we are lied to, we must call upon the liars to answer. Where we see corruption, we must act as individuals if necessary to shine a light on it. We must have a sense of what is right and what is wrong and we must expect that the people we elect to represent us have that same sense. No longer can we sit idly by and let the few dictate to the many the limits of our expectations.
For any of this change to occur, individuals have to decide that political discourse is ok and can be peaceful. The sentiment that “You shouldn’t talk about politics” or “Politics is a taboo subject” is very convenient for the leading intellectuals but for the average citizen it disengages us from the process and limits the free expression and flow of ideas. When we were founded, it was considered “Enlightened” to discuss and debate policy, politics and religion. This is how the ordinary citizen became informed or strengthened in his opinions. When the Founders met to draft a constitution, articles were published in newspapers and pamphlets. The “government” wanted the people to understand what was going on and wanted them to discuss it freely. Today, there must be a public uproar before our congress will publish a pending piece of legislation, before they will post the 2,000 page document for our review. We can no longer even count on our members of congress to have read it.
Americans have been made to believe that political or religious discourse is offensive. It is now good manners to avoid such subjects and keep all interaction limited to the weather or sports. The “tough” decisions will be made and the “difficult” solutions will be presented by the few academics who somehow have more of a right to opine then we the uninformed masses.
This is not how our government was set up. The Declaration of Independence purposely begins, “We the People”, not “We the group of elites” or “We the privileged intellects”. Our founders understood that it was the will of the people that government must carry out. The only way to determine the will of the people is to allow them a voice. Where we stifle that voice, where we remain silent, we allow and even submit our will over to the very people who have silenced us.
Our window of opportunity is almost closed. It is now time that the people understand that it does affect us, that we can demand better of our leaders, that we can make a difference and that we need, for the sake of our survival, to speak up.