For that reason, some people would say I'm not patriotic. They might even say I "hate America" or I should "go back to Russia" or even that I "should be shot." I've heard all of this, and more, as I exercise my rights and responsibilities as a citizen. But whether I wave a flag or not, there is one thing I do regularly that makes me stand out and shine as a true patriot:
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Democracy: Use It or Lose It
As we approach the Fourth of July weekend in the U.S., I've been seeing a lot of discussion about what patriotism, and what democracy, means to each of us. For me, civic involvement and political awareness run deep in my bones. Perhaps this is because I was born and raised in the shadow of the Nation's Capitol. My idea of a "mall" had the Capitol building at one end, and the Washington monument at the other. Images of the iconic monuments to freedom and democracy are imprinted deep in my consciousness, as something I truly grew up with:
So you might say, I'm a natural-born patriot. However, I don't do the kind of pseudo-patriotism that involves waving flags, wearing lapel pins, and blowing things up to show how great we are. I do question the USA's actions, both at home and in the world at large, and while I never forget the great and wonderful things this country has done throughout its history, I also never cease to point out how much we need to do better.
***I VOTE ***
Over the years I have done a lot of things in the carrying out of my tasks as a citizen: worked in campaigns, made donations, wrote letters to the newspapers, walked in protests, attended rallies. I've even served as a public official: for two years I was a Planning Commissioner in Tuolumne County, Calif. I've been employed by the Federal Government, so I've seen from the inside and, how government works. But still, when all is said and done, the best thing I can do as a citizen is this:
And it makes me really sad that I'm a rarity for doing this. In the primary election last month, my home county - Bernalillo County, New Mexico - experienced a record-high voter turn-out. That's great news, isn't it? But that record-high turn-out was only something like 28 percent of eligible voters! This is a trend that's common everywhere in U.S., to our great shame. Have we Americans come to take our democracy for granted?
In truth, I wish I didn't stand out for voting. I want to be just one of many of my fellow citizens who fully embrace their fundamental right - no, their fundamental duty - as citizens to do the one thing we can all do to make a difference: VOTE!
Now, I've heard all the arguments from all of you typically well-educated and concerned folks who don't vote (and you know who you are). I've heard all the arguments, everything from
"It takes too much time"
(come on, we've all spent more time in Wal-Mart's checkout line than we have voting)
"It's waste of time, nothing ever changes"
(oh yeah? What's a bigger waste of time than complaining about the government, especially if you haven't voted?)
So let's dispense with the whiny excuses and get down to the core: "I don't know who to vote for." I must admit, as a natural-born political animal, this one puzzles me. Some of my friends think I absorb political info from the air, but in fact I glean my knowledge from all the avenues available to you. I read, I listen to interpretive news programs, I surf the Net. It's just about having the willingness and putting the focus into doing it.
Therefore, as a service to you my fellow-travelers, I'm dedicating part of my blog this election to posting information sources for you political education and voting preparation. You will see these sources as links in sidebar, under the title Get Informed and Take Action! Just clink on a link and go to a site I have personally have visited and checked out for its user-friendliness as well as quality of information. Yes, most of these sites are from the progressive side of the political spectrum, because that is where my political passions lie and I'm going to be true to myself here.
I'm featurng non-mainstream news sources, are there is one non-partisan - and excellent - site I wish to call to your attention:
This site contains policy statements by ALL the candidates in every race this election year, from president down to your district's House of Representatives member. The information is well-documented and presented in a number of ways to make comparisons easy for you, the voter. It's also a truly fascinating site! I could spend hours surfing this site (and I probably will, as the election season progresses.)
Fellow-travelers, don't tell me politics is boring, or too hard to understand, or you don't know where to get information. I've done everything I can to make it easy for you. Now, it's up to you to take up the challenge our Founders - and all the others who've gone before us - have given us, to be true citizens and participants in this great democracy of ours.
Will you rise to the challenge, and VOTE?
Happy Fourth of July. Be safe with fireworks, and read my cat Luvlee's post just after this one!