Civic responsibility and the blame game
By Frank Salvato
Our Founders believed in ownership of the Constitution. By that I mean they expected, almost took for granted, that each American citizen would stake a claim of ownership to the principles and tenants set forth in our Founding Documents. But as we watch our elected officials, in Washington DC and in our State Houses, habitually place the political well-being of themselves and their parties above good government for their constituents and our country, we must ask ourselves: Are we doing our part in making sure our government is the best it can be?
The Founding Documents, The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights, serve as a covenant between the American people and our government, a contract, as it were.
One of the unwritten provisions of this covenant, this contract, was that each American would exercise a certain level of self-prescribed civic responsibility where the role of caretaker, or steward, to the Constitution was concerned. They intended for Americans to engage in the governmental process by continuously questing for the truth and then engaging their representatives in elected office – when need be – on the issues using fact-based knowledge, civil discourse and a patriotic ideology, even when in disagreement.
It has been said that a child who is made to earn a toy most often takes better care of it than a child who was simply given the toy. Well, our nation has become a nation of children who have been given, not a toy, but the gifts of freedom and a Constitutional Republic with which to safeguard that freedom and we are abusing these gifts with our relentless apathy and ignorance.
Because it is impossible to understand the value of something without knowing its worth, our society has become estranged from the value of freedom. We toss around the saying "freedom isn't free" but we hardly understand the price of attaining and maintaining that freedom. The majority of us have never actually fought for our liberties and we most assuredly have never lived under the tyranny of oppression, although the delusional Progressive-Left would argue otherwise. We have become soft, self-centered and egotistical and our country is a worse place for it.
Americans have become pre-disposed to engaging in the blame game. No matter what the problem, we can always conveniently find someone, some thing, some situation to blame. In today's culture, if someone is societally diminished because of their actions, the call is for rehab or therapy. Self-restraint and civic responsibility are non-existent in the "it's not my fault" victim era in which we live.
The time is well past that the American people – a people who owe their allegiance to those greater individuals who had the courage and intellectual vision to create our nation's Constitutional form of government – start living up to the civic responsibility that our Founders understood to be needed if this great American experiment is to succeed.
American voters should not only cherish and value the right to vote, we should take the time to find out who the candidates are and what they stand for. In the Internet Age it is quite easy to examine a candidate's prior votes and understand his or her positions. We must stop falling prey to the bumper sticker mentality of Madison Avenue. After all, we're electing people as stewards to our Constitution, leaders of the greatest country on the face of the earth, not dialoguing on who should be the manager of a GAP store.
Citizens need to comprehend that all politics is local. It requires casting votes in Home Town, USA, to elect every one from city council to the President of the United States. Some house races in the 2006 election were won by less than a thousand votes so the misnomer that "your vote doesn't count" is a contention born of ignorance, apathy and sheer laziness. People fought and died to secure our right to vote for those who represent us in government. While millions, if not billions, around the world thirst for just this right, we pat ourselves on the back for a 50% voter turnout. For this we should be ashamed.
We need to engage our government. Every voter, every citizen, who truly cares for the well-being of our towns, our states, our country, should research the issues and, if need be, interact with the governmental process. Go to a village board, school board or county board meeting. Know what referendums are being considered, what legislation is being advanced and what is being touted as curriculum in our schools. We need to hold those who pander for our votes every other year or so responsible to our vote.
Americans must stop patronizing and placing their unchallenged trust in mainstream media outlets that editorialize the news or present agenda-driven information. If they have been known to twist the truth or present it through the perspective of tainted ideology, turn the channel or throw out the paper…and don't go back out of habit.
We need to respect ourselves more than to feed from the propaganda garbage heap that news organizations such as The New York Times and CBS News have become. The new media offers a plethora of quality information outlets to satisfy our needs, outlets that offer verification and validation of the facts they present. We must stop settling for the cant of the agenda-driven purveyors of misinformation.
We must take responsibility for the dismal politically opportune government we have elected. We are the ones that keep electing these idiots therefore we are to blame, not the system, not the polling places, not the ballot styles, not the political parties, us, we are to blame.
If a change needs to be made we must do it through the time honored tradition of the primary process, not by exercising a childish want to split off into a third party, in essence "taking our ball and going home." Instead of complaining about the candidates presented, search out good candidates, support them and stand behind them. Have the courage to engage in the primary process and then be honorable enough to support the candidate that process produces.
The Funding of Our Candidates
Lastly, and this is my hope for the future of American politics, our country would be better served if we all started financially supporting our candidates instead of the behemoth national parties.
By reversing the flow of political campaign wealth we would require candidates to be more beholden to their (prospective) constituents than to the national parties and to articulate their massages more effectively. By creating a direct line between financial support and the constituency we "encourage" candidates to make a more concerted attempt to educate the public on the issues and to report on their actions within the halls of government.
Supporting fellow party candidates that find themselves in financial need would become an issue of political morality for the well-funded politician rather than a mandated national party policy. This would eliminate the situation where a political contribution from a paleoconservative in Texas or a radical liberal in California or a moderate in Nebraska went to fund a candidate from somewhere other than their state whose views were not in sync with theirs.
Transitioning funding from the national parties to the regional candidates also would eliminate, to a great extent, the seasonal call for third party candidates. It would neuter the one-issue special interest groups who threaten a party exodus every time their litmus tests aren't employed during the primaries and general elections. These special interest groups should be made to win the consensus of the people and not just the political parties should they want their views adopted by government.
Through the combined strength of this newly cast breed of candidate and elected official we will succeed in making our political parties more thoughtful, more representative and more effective, while making those elected to office more accountable to their constituency. This, in my opinion, is the only way to return control of the federal government to the people; by placing more importance on the individual candidate rather than the party.
Only when we turn off American Idol, embrace our civic responsibility, engage the governmental process when necessary, seek out the facts and good candidates and refuse to patronize the propaganda factories of the mainstream media will our country start to heal from our neglect.
It's time to stop blaming everyone else and start taking responsibility for our own narcissistic apathy and inaction. Our Founders would have expected more from us.
Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor. He hosts The New Media Journal on BlogTalk Radio and is a regular guest on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network and The Captain's America on WWPR AM1490 in the Tampa Bay area, as well as an occasional guest on The Bruce Elliott Show on WBAL AM1090 in Baltimore and numerous radio shows coast to coast. His organization, Basics Project, is partnered in producing the first-ever national symposium series on the threat of radical Islamist terrorism. His pieces have been recognized by the House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2007 Frank Salvato