Sound backwards? The founding fathers would think so. They knew that America’s priorities had to be “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and in that order as stated in the Constitution. They understood that if the country weren’t safe or were at war (“life), then we couldn’t be truly free (“liberty”). And they understood that if we weren’t free, then we couldn’t “pursue our happiness.”
Unfortunately, we have our priorities backwards and it shows. Too many of us care more about our pursuits of happiness than about ensuring the country is strong and thus free.
We spend more time getting on Do Not Call lists than we do communicating with our elected officials. We teach our children how to prove that two triangles are congruent, but don’t teach them how to be good citizens.
The NFL can’t tolerate one of its stars, Jake Plummer, wearing a patch to honor a fallen war hero and former NFL player, Pat Tillman. How dare he violate NFL rules. We seem to get more upset with Janet Jackson exposed breast on TV than with an American getting beheaded by terrorists. We get upset if a teacher tries to discipline our child but don’t take the time to vote. While about 200,000 American soldiers and their families are making great sacrifices to keep this country safe, fewer than 40% of eligible voters take the time to vote. For the rest of us, voting is too big a sacrifice – it takes away from our “pursuit of happiness.”
The void that is created by our not being involved is filled by Special Interest Groups. Thus more and more the laws and values of this country reflect the interests of the Special interests and not our citizens. We have become a SIGocracy, a nation “of, by and for” Special Interests, not the people.
Edmund Burke said it best. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. In a democracy, we are part of the government, we are part of law enforcement, we are part of the education system, we are a part of our government. We blame politicians, but we elect them without knowing much about them. We blame the media, but we are the ones who buy the newspapers and magazines and who watch and listen to the news shows. We blame corporations, yet we are the ones who buy their products. We blame the schools, but we are ones who berate them for discipling our children and we are the ones who abdicate our responsibility of raising them.
Each of us needs to be a more effective citizen. And when that day comes, there will still be issues and problems, but there will be fewer, their magnitude will be less, and we will resolve them more quickly and in a manner that reflects the values of the majority of the American people and not the interests of Special Interests.
Good Citizen, a 501(c)(3) non profit, with a mission to teach Americans the importance of being involved in a democracy and how to be effective citizens has identifying 100 things – Citizen Actions – each of us can do on a day-to-day basis which when done by all of us when the opportunities arise, will keep this country free.