I want to toss some thoughts out because I’m not sure what a citizen’s role really is in the US anymore. I’m curious what people here think.
Until recently, I thought that my primary role in the running of our country was to communicate and understand what my elected officials were doing. Those who communicated effectively with me and who made decisions I either agreed with (or at least understood the logic behind) were to be rewarded with my vote. Those who were less effective in those tasks I’d vote to replace. That’s what I understood in my civics class back at Oxon Hill High School.
Maybe high school civics from the 70’s doesn’t really apply anymore.
A few years back, I resolved never to speak again on two things – faith and politics. It seemed to me that there was no longer the convention that folks could talk about these things, disagree, and move on as if they’d spoken about nothing of more consequence than the weather.
All the same, I slip up on that resolution sometimes.
It has come to the point that when people discuss those topics, the goal is very often to bring the other person to the opposite side, or berate them as a fool, or worse.
I think it would be easy to label this as a “conservative” behavior. That is certainly the classification of folks who’ve practiced this sort of “persuasion” on me, but that may be a function of being one of the less conservative people in my work place. My refusal to give in to that sort of persuasion got me called the most vile thing people of a conservative bent could ever come up with to label another person – a liberal.
As narrow minded as the person who called me that was, if a liberal was the opposite of him, I damn sure wanted to be one.
Anyhow, despite my experience, I’d guess some similar conversations go in the other direction – folks who could be labeled liberal, trying to win over folks labeled conservative.
The reality is, I’m really kind of ticked off when people try to affect my basic ideas on life. My political leanings and my religious affiliations were developed based on what I’ve seen through life. I’m confident in my ideas and beliefs. I’m willing to learn, I’m willing to adjust positions, but that happens quietly, through my own information gathering.
If I feel that way, doesn’t someone on the opposite end of the spectrum feel similarly? I think it isn’t right for me to expect my opinions to be respected, but not to give the same respect.
Here is the kicker, for me. Who drops off the radar when we’re so busy trying to convince one another that, for instance, health care is good or bad? The elected officials. We’re their bosses. Shouldn’t everyone’s effort, no matter their affiliation, be directed (respectfully) toward the people we hired? How’d they get us focused on one another?
Those people we hired were given their jobs because we thought they’d look after us. They will be the ones who decide when kids come home from the war and what will be done to repair the economic damage our country has suffered.
The thing is, I don’t think many of us (least of all, me) are supervising and directing our employees. We’re too busy yelling at each other. When I’m busy trying to convince my neighbors and that clown in the next cubicle listening to Limbaugh that the way I think is right, I’m not watching my senator. I’m not doing my job.
One of the things I like about this blog, is that it allows us all to put the information out there about how we see things for folks who disagree to see. Maybe they fall by and see something that makes a light bulb go on for them. Perhaps I wander the net and absorb something that makes me think.
Doing things like that are, I think, part of the new citizen involvement piece of democracy that Mr. Buckley and Mr. Cowan never could have envisioned in the years they had me back at Oxon Hill High.
All in all though, Buckley and Cowan both told me that my job was to hold the people I elected accountable. They never mentioned me going out and evangelizing folks from the opposition.
So I guess my question is, what is my job? Am I the supervisor for the people I hired to mind the store? Or am I an evangelist for a philosophy whose task is to beat the bushes for converts to the causes I believe in?