Our Political Role
February 16, 2015
Filed In: Church and Culture
Today we observe President's Day and I think it's an excellent time for us to consider our political role.
There’s been a large shift over the past 50 years in terms of the average American's involvement in politics. A trend has developed in which each generation finds itself losing more and more faith in their government as a result of repeated scandals and increasingly frightening surveillance programs. What’s so easily forgotten is that employees of the government are, by and large, ordinary Americans just like us.
Astoundingly, instead of actively using the mechanisms in place to remedy errors, namely voting in elections and voicing opinions to elected officials, participation in politics has dwindled among the general population. By far the biggest opportunity to enact change are our regularly held elections, and yet, on Election Day, most Americans stay home. Even worse, an elected position has become a career for many in our society. The longer a person serves in government, the more susceptible they become to undue influence by special interests, tempted to corruption, and drunk on power. Instead of fresh ideas and new faces to solve our most complex societal problems, we keep sending the same people back year after year, and in many cases, decade after decade. Gone, too, are the days when Americans would regularly write or call their representatives and share views on bills and issues being debated in Congress. We've fallen victim to thinking that our voice really doesn't matter, that one vote can't make a difference, and so we back out of politics completely, except for some shouting matches online and at Thanksgiving.
Politics, the business of promoting the common good, has removed reason from every discussion and replaced it with ideology. In this scenario, we all lose. The poor are given hand outs instead of hand ups. The successful are objectively robbed as the price for doing well. The middle class become political pawns, used by everyone in bids to increase power, influence, and size. Bills become so laden with pork that it’s hard to determine what the original intent was. Instead of using our time to fix broken systems, update laws as science and technology advance, and promote strong, stable families, we spend all of our time scheming, yelling, and accusing each other of ridiculous things.
You know all this to be true and so do I. How do we, as Catholic husbands, address it? As with all great change, it starts at home. We should take an active political role ourselves, we must teach our children about the duties we have as citizens of a democracy, and we should take it upon ourselves to fix problems locally.
We must advocate for what we believe in. We each have a few issues that are close to our hearts that we feel compelled to support. Some may be life issues, others tax issues, and social justice issues might even be in the mix. Keep track of when your issues are being discussed and pick up the phone, mail a letter, or send an email to your elected officials. Despite what you may think, representatives do take into account the opinions of their constituents. They can’t read your mind. Share your opinions!
Next, we must show our kids that living in this great country means that we have responsibilities to fulfill. Don't duck out on jury duty. Vote in every election. Elections happen almost every year in your community and range from local, state, and federal elections. You can easily find out when elections are being held and where they are, participate! Members of the armed services literally gave up their lives so that you can vote, so do it!
We also can’t be led to retreat every time our ideas lose. When we leave the discussion, we only give louder voice to the opinions that we disagree with
Lastly, solve problems locally. We can't fix homelessness across the country, but we might be able to get together with a few neighbors and fix the problem in our town. We can't solve the scourge of absentee fathers in another city, but we could start a regular inter-faith seminar for young men that teaches and informs about the duties, benefits, and joys of responsible parenting. We can’t get adequate healthcare for people in another state, but we can fund a free clinic in our community. We don't have to wait for the government to fix a problem, we can do it ourselves!
This is our nation and our home. It's up to us to use the structures in place to make it a just society that serves all with dignity and fairness.