Civic Duty Calls

Civic Duty Calls
I might be an old tired curmudgeon. But civic duty sometimes demands that we stand up and speak up. (image from http://quirkyberkeley.com/don-quixote-and-the-windmills/)
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politics. Show all posts

Feb 13, 2017

Essay: On America’s Core Values






The notion of "America's Core Values" is nothing more than that, a mythical array of benign images and buzz words that has been used for generations.

These are silent assumptions for the most part, and predominant among many citizens who furthermore remain captured in the familiar conceptual image of an American Dream. Nowadays The American Dream has become an idea that does nothing more than drive “earning and spending” as our patriotic duty.

Most do not register feelings until someone - primarily in a position of political ambition or an appeal to loyalty touches that tender nerve of idealism. 

Most recently the Democratic Party ran on the idea that their candidate was experienced, tough and quite capable of plowing around in the cesspools of D.C. politics.  Too many voters were tired of such a concept and rejected the appeal, accomplishing a rude recognition that the Democrats had barked up the wrong tree.

Republicans were had a disadvantage with their own handicapped political morality that had consisted mostly of obstructionism and almost constant attacks on a sitting president.  That particular disadvantage was overcome by the perceptual gall of our current president who proceeded to exploit the mythical core values with promises to “make America great again.”


Yes yes ... baseball, Mom and apple pie are internally reinforced images. However, such images constitute merely the gate to the family homestead. The homestead itself is where the house, the property and the family members sustain themselves. Those "homesteads" most successful do so through mutual trusting dependence on a value system based on love, tolerance, economic equality, industry and opportunity.

Sadly, such a homestead as a common national entity has never existed in this country.

Nevertheless, as an internal visualization, it has driven the grandest, most successful and most popular events, changes, adjustments, creations and repentances that we've seen in our history.

But only as an internal visualization:

·       Such an idealized homestead never included a unanimous endorsement of supposed free-market economics.
·       Such never included subordination of individual rights and freedoms to the priorities of corporate dominance.
·        Such certainly did not include evolution of the government into a source of camouflaged corporate welfare.

In that regard, a pure and successful free-market society has never existed, has never proven itself a success nor as a universally beneficial system for public well-being.

When pondered and considered honestly; when valued for what they truly represent, our mythical core values ought to reflect the undeniable rebuttal to politicians who declare that government should be run as a business.

At best, the notion of government as a business walks and talks more like a criminal syndicate that reflects a very narrow view of economic reality in this country. The notion has been perhaps best exemplified by the candidacies of Donald Trump and, previously, Mitt Romney. Both typified most capitalist politicians who have come to equate their personal financial success as a blend of entrepreneurial wisdom fortified by civic understanding of the laws of economics. The implication as expressed rhetorically by Donald Trump is that entrepreneurial wisdom somehow generates a natural entrepreneurial compassion for the less successful.

Most of these prominent megaphones want you to believe that justice for all is found on the back of a dollar bill more so than in any Constitution. We seem to hear this nonsense more from conservatives and/or the Republican Party who have for the last 50 years portrayed themselves as economically wise fiscal conservatives.

The truth is that the Democrats are no strangers to this way of thinking and again have proven just what informs and enables their political strategy.

In reality, Republicans, once unleashed by their political successes beginning more powerfully after the 2000 election as opposed to the Reagan/Bush era of the 80's and early 90's, with great fanfare wrapped themselves in robes reform and change to accomplish a "fiscally responsible makeover.” In truth, that makeover - even after 8 years of mostly obstructed Democratic power in Congress and the presidency - still reflect our time's most powerful contemporary economic embarrassments.

For example we saw a welfare reform in the 1990's that has only marginally resolved even half the problems of poverty in this country. We also saw a rebuttal of the Clinton presidency's attempt to address national health care inadequacies. 

In truth Republican resistance to the Clinton efforts was foolish, ideological, partisan and primarily greed-based. During the Obama administration Republicans as pure and unabashed obstructionists acted out their truly un-American refusals to reform or change health coverage in this country because the few are more important and significant than the many.

We saw how the "fiscally responsible" party of change actually changed many American core value freedoms into unprotected vulnerabilities subject to the whims and greed of corporate capitalism.

It is obvious to those who are not blinded by partisan advocacies that neither party's victories in the future will guarantee any movement for genuine reform unless among those victories a specific mandate is included. It must be a mandate that reflects the will of the people; a mandate opposed to bought-and-paid-for civic policies enacted at the behest of moneyed lobbyists.

Voters must simultaneously have opportunity or means of formalizing a mandate to remove, severely restrict or equalize the playing field when it comes to lobbying our representatives for change.  We need more than ever to intervene in the ongoing attempt to run government as a business - particularly in the hands of capitalist moguls who have little or no regard for individual private citizens. 

We need to get involved and move to force corporate lobbyists out of our elected officials’ waiting rooms.

Such was of course the substance of what was in the snake-oil bottles that candidate Trump sold to enough gullibles in enough states to capture the presidency - regardless of a 3 million vote deficit in popularity.


Pay attention to the cut-and-paste writings on the Facebook news feed, for example. You frequently encounter an almost mindless and tragically immature assumption that idealism matters not at all, that standards of thought and values are negotiable and that pragmatism usurps any desire or commitment to an ideal.

Partisan activists who consider themselves wise and who are intimately involved in the campaigns of their most beloved candidates almost always seem to belittle idealism as a civic value. They use the chestnut that you have to play the game in its forever-deteriorating manner in order to win power.
Only then - once in power - can the victor look up the core values even he/she have probably forgotten and restore America to its mythical former glory. 

Such thinking neither proves nor wins anything and justifies little more than points scored in individual advocacy duels.  It also demonstrates and reveals a cynicism that fuels the ever-increasing loss of a civic appreciation for how things need to work in this country.

That's why too many of us - and I mean this literally - are too stupid to see through political tactics generated by polls and political consultants. 

We’ve lost our trust in whatever the Mythical American Core Values ever were. 

Nothing is taking the place of that trust except perhaps cynicism and an ever deepening self-absorbed behavioral pattern; a pattern that only underlines what historians will eventually describe as the reason for the fall.

What assumptions can we or ought we make about America’s Core Values? 

What ought we assert in terms of what it means to be a civically responsible American citizen?

Could the effect of civic immaturity be the reason for our almost mindless lack of the most important of our attentions?

·        the consequences of unquestioned acceptance of political promises;
·        to political rhetoric based entirely on hostility to rival candidates and/or parties;
·        to the almost criminal manipulation of facts and truth by paid amoral spin doctors?

Are we in fact afraid to ask ourselves such questions and seek the answers by our own efforts as opposed to someone else's magic (opinion)?






American Civic Values and Duties

“If man is not made in the image of God, nothing then stands in the way of inhumanity. There is no good reason why mankind should be perceived as special. Human life is cheapened. 
We can see this in many of the major issues being debated in our society today: abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, the increase of child abuse and violence of all kinds, pornography, the routine torture of political prisoners in many parts of the world, the crime explosion, and the random violence which surrounds us.”
― Francis A. Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

Francis Schaeffer was an American Evangelical Christian who was considered by many to be the godfather of the Christian Right’s entry into political activism beginning in the late 70’s and early 80’s.?

Schaeffer’s most famous writing was the book How Should We Then Live? I’ve always liked the quote above which for me serves as an introduction to what I want to personally advocate with my interpretation of what civic understanding and duty ought to look like.

Borrowing from Francis Schaeffer, I ask then, “How Then Should We Then Live as civic-minded citizens of the United States of America?”

In addition, borrowing from The Universal Declaration on Human Rights,
I wish to list my thoughts on both the rights and obligations connected to myself and my fellow citizens regarding what it means to be an informed citizen who participates in the life of his country:


All American Citizens are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

All citizens ought to cultivate skills in reasoning and critical thinking. We need a sense of conscience regarding the impact of societal values on the individual lives of all. 

All American citizens are entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in our Constitution without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

All American Citizens have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law under which all are equal before the law and entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.

All American Citizens have the right to an effective remedy by competent judicial processes for acts violating the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution. No American Citizen shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. Everyone is entitled in full equality to fair and public judicial hearings in the determination of rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against them.

All American Citizens charged with a penal offence have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which they have had all the guarantees necessary for their defense.

No American Citizens shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon their honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

All American Citizens have the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.  They also have the right to leave the country and to return.

Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.  
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. The family - no-matter how constituted based on gender - is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

All citizens have the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.  No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

All citizens have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change their religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, and to manifest that religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

All citizens have the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Every citizen has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

All citizens have the right to take part in the government of this country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

All citizens have the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

All citizens without any discrimination, have the right to equal pay for equal work. Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for themselves and families an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
          
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests. Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

All citizens have the right to pursue a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services. In addition there is the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond their control.

Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Everyone has the right to education. Universal education in this country should be a priority of the greatest significance and priority. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.


Civic participation - like organizational participation or religious participation - is part and parcel of a way we should perceive what citizenship means in this country.

We cannot take for granted the rights and freedoms we enjoy.

We cannot take for granted the notion that others in this country are doing and will always do enough on our behalf to allow us to function like “civic couch potatoes.” We cannot expect to live lives of all-consumption and all-self-absorption with little obligation to participate. We are not excused from a responsibility to participate; to make our thoughts known and to attend to civic duties, whether formal duties like jury service or town-hall duties which are based on voluntary engagement.

We ought to be inquisitive. We ought to be critical thinkers who – even if only during an election cycle – ask questions. We ought to always seek answers, look for verifications, confirmations and sources of political opinions when ideas and promises are expressed by candidates and advocates.

It is a sad circumstance when candidates essentially hope you will not fact-check their claims. It is a demeaning circumstance that they might expect you to gullibly accept their assertions; to buy their snake oil.

Our active participation will reveal more and more the assets and liabilities of our political system, of our parties and their candidates. We might even   conclude that someone else is needed to do a better job than what is being doing ostensibly on our behalf right now.

We cannot be citizens who are all-talk, all-complain, and no-personal-action.

Speaking out should be second nature. When such times come into our lives, we speak out as we must. 

It is at that point that an honest sense of civic duty might suggest that a job not being done propels us to consider taking the next step to which civic duty calls us. There comes a time when it falls on us to step out of the sidelines and get in the game in whatever form that “getting” takes.

Perhaps then the time comes when we need to put your life where our mouths   formerly ruled our civic attitude.

When it comes to governing embarrassments, there is more to it that assigning blame. 

If the tire goes flat, don't sit there and hope someone will come along and fix it for you. Get out of your car, take off your sport coat and change it yourself.