There is a big difference between effecting real change and sitting on the sidelines bitching. If you’re serious about the former, then it takes effort.
Charles Krauthammer penned, in his book Things That Matter, one of the most poignant passages about the importance of politics that I have ever read.
While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate. In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.
Politics, the crooked timber of our communal lives, dominates everything because, in the end, everything – high and low and, most especially, high – lives or dies by politics. You can have the most efflorescent of cultures. Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away.
That the US political system, at every level of government, is broken is no secret. What seems to be the secret to many is what it will really take to begin to correct the fundamental flaws.
In the simplest of possible terms, it will take an engaged electorate to have genuine impact.
Let’s start with what is not engaged in the sense required to be part of the solution.
- Engaged is not replying to a social media post with “bullshit”
- Engaged is not succumbing to the attitude “if you disagree with me you’re an idiot”
- Engaged is not locking in on a single online political outlet, frequented by nothing but like-minded visitors, and patting each other on the back in the comments for your self-perceived intelligence
- Engaged is not going to the voting booth every two, more likely four, years with no more information about whom you will pull the lever for except a well-timed sound bite written by a savvy campaign operative
So what is engaged if you want to be part of a real solution?
- Engaged begins with being open-minded and willing to exchange ideas in a civil manner
- Engaged is seeking out varying viewpoints from reasonable sources and taking a few minutes to honestly digest what they have to say
- Engaged is becoming informed, at a basic level at least, about what the candidates that could represent you at the local, state and national level stand for and believe in
- Engaged is investing a modicum of time and effort after you’ve voted (in both the primary and general elections) to stay abreast of what your elected officials are actually doing relative to what they said they would do if you voted for them
In short, if you truly want to change our political system then you must be active and informed.
Forsake the vitriol on social media for a little while and find an online destination or two where you can be assured of honest information not self-serving sensationalism. Then take a few minutes to actually read an entire article or two, not just the headlines. Compel yourself to practice some critical thinking about what you just read and then leave an intelligent comment, or join an existing discussion thread.
I am not remotely suggesting everybody should become a political wonk. I am not advocating that anybody should give up the hobbies and recreational pursuits that serve as a break from the stress of work and daily life. I am simply suggesting that a few minutes per day, a couple days per week, will be time well spent and put you on the road to real engagement that can beget true change.