Sadly, my father was absent from much of my youth, save as a disciplinarian. Being a retired marine drill instructor, he was quite a disciplinarian, too. My mother did most of the raising and teaching, but a couple of lessons my father passed onto me have stayed with me all my life. One was, “All things in moderation.”
While many in my generation are of the belief that if one drink is good, a half-dozen must be better, I imbibe moderately on occasion, which has allowed me the pleasure of occasionally indulging in a glass of good scotch, wine, or beer well into my fifties. Several of my contemporaries were forced to give it up before they reached thirty due to abuse and subsequent alcoholism.
Another lesson my father taught me was that it was my patriotic duty to question, and hold accountable, those we elect to office. He went on to say that no government is benign and that the greatest evil often masquerades as good.
I was not on board with the invasion of Iraq, and I recall all too well the rhetoric the White House fed those of us who voiced discontent. Make no mistake—I supported our kids 100%. They didn’t start the war; they were only following orders. It was the politics behind the invasion I doubted. In the aftermath of the war, I was right to question those politics. Yet by questioning the motives of those in office at the time, my patriotism came under fire. Since when in this country does dissention equate to being unpatriotic? If the president states he’s going to raise taxes and I grumble, should I expect to have my patriotism questioned?
True patriotism is not blindly going along with the decisions those in office make, like a lemming plunging over a cliff because the lemming in front of it did so. True patriotism is not supporting the decisions made by elected officials when we don’t agree.
True patriotism is questioning authority, holding accountable those responsible for the decisions made. If they’re not getting it done, why aren’t they?
True patriotism is also about believing in the power of the non-vote. When one votes against a candidate and not for another, it amounts to a vote for the status quo. Business as usual.
Those elected to office today aren’t America’s best and brightest; they’re not the most moral or ambitious; they’re certainly not those able and willing to play well with others. In fact, those elected to office today understand the most important rule in politics: they don’t have to believe a word of their own rhetoric. They just have to convince the voter they believe in it, and do it better than their opponent. That’s American politics today.
And that’s precisely why we keep hearing that it’s our civic duty to vote.
It may be my civic duty to vote; but those who claim that by not voting I give up my right to criticize our political system, as well as those in office, are part of the problem, since, by endorsing a poor candidate over a poorer candidate, they send the message that they are happy with the way the political system works.
Frankly, I don’t know anyone in my circle of friends who is happy right now with the way our government functions—the gridlock in Washington and Congressmen who would rather see an opponent lose on an issue than see the American public win. Little good takes place in our nation’s capitol these days. The news gets worse every day: the national debt spinning out of control, more troops being sent to Afghanistan, unemployment holding steady, rising healthcare costs, to hell with the environment—a devil-may-care attitude toward a world we won’t live to see.
Does it turn your stomach, too?
What will it take to send the message that the American people won’t stand for it any longer? What will it take to send the message to a candidate running for office that a vote for him or her is not so much a vote for them as it is a vote against their opponent?
Thomson Jefferson wrote: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
These days there is no fear in Washington; while where I sit, typing these words, my fear grows day by day as I feel my liberty dwindling.
Civil disobedience? Perhaps a revolution is in order. A revolution the likes of which this country hasn’t seen in 225 years.