Wednesday, November 05, 2014

teenage democracy

We in the USA are fond of pointing out to anyone that will listen (and many who won't) that we are the greatest nation on earth, and in the history of nations. We are definitely the best.

We are so much the best that we are constantly trying to get other nations to set up governmental systems like ours.

(which, for the record, is based on the Presbyterian system of governance. Thanks, Presbyterians.)

And it works, sometimes. We love to look at those photos and videos of people going to vote for the first time, or at least to cast a meaningful vote for the first time. The purple-inked fingers, the big smiles, the excitement in the air when a new democracy is born through a peaceful and free election process.

We don't so much like to do it ourselves, of course.

We're like teenagers, who've outgrown the excitement of voting and participating in our political system. We're in the rebellious stage, where we look back on those things we used to do as children with a bit of nostalgia mixed in with a bit of contempt and a heap of cynicism.

Generally elections like the one still going on in Western states right now bring out a mere 40% of voters.

Fewer than half of us vote in elections that make the most difference to our everyday lives, to our cities and towns and schools and courts, to our basic civilization.

When it's a "big" election (meaning a President is on the ballot), we might get to 60%.

It's like we lost interest. We used to do this democracy thing, but we don't anymore.

Not unlike the first people who were able to read the Bible for themselves, and were all excited, and actually, you know, read it...we've stopped doing that too. People literally fought wars, shed blood, and died for us to hold that book in our hands in our own language, and we're kind of over it.

People also fought (and continue to fight), shed blood, and die for us to step into that voting booth (and for us to inform ourselves about what we'll see on the ballot through our many sources of media, both corporate and independent). But we're kind of over it. We've given in to the idea that there's only really one party anyway, and there's too much money in elections but we can't do anything about it, and negative attack ads that go on for 6 months before election day are somehow normal. And nothing changes, because more than half of us stay home.

But we stay home and spout these words about loving our country, and supporting our troops, and being patriotic, and praying for God to Bless America.

But if we don't vote, we don't love our country. We are the worst kind of unpatriotic. We do not support our troops. And we are not interested in the ways that God has proven to bless--through the actions of people who are compassionate and invested.

So don't just put your hand over your heart and sing the anthem, don't get all teary-eyed at Proud to be an American, and then stay home on election days. Don't wear a flag pin and pretend you love the country when you haven't bothered to read up on people and issues and then take the time to vote. And don't spout all that "greatest nation in the history of Earth" nonsense if you're not willing to participate in what makes this nation great: citizens who are engaged in their communities, paying attention to their politicians, and holding the government (of/by/for the people) to account for seeking the greater good. Prove how much you appreciate the good luck of being born here or the privilege of having become a citizen, and get your butt in the booth.


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