I tended to vote for “What’s in it for me,” or “What makes me feel good,” or just because Foghorn had more signs up than Blowhard. After I voted, I did not follow up. Is the feel good legislation working? Were the bennies for me doing harm elsewhere? Were they constitutionally or morally justified? Such thoughts never crossed my mind. I was a bad citizen. Unfortunately, I have not only been a bad citizen, I have been a very typical citizen. Which begs a question; what, then is a Good Citizen?
- We are poorly educated in citizenship. If you’re under fifty, the odds are pretty good (and they go up the younger you are) that you were poorly educated on how our government is supposed to work, why it was designed that way, its underlying principles, and the role of a citizen in making it work. I don’t have this excuse – but maybe I was on the cutting edge of poor learning.
- We are ensnared in a world of distractions, a world of instant communication, deluged with information and entertainment. We’re like minnows trying to swallow an ocean – and so bombarded that we are suffering from Attention Deficit Syndrome at the same time.
- We are living in a more complex and faster paced world with competing ideologies, faiths, and world-views where a disturbance on the other side of the world can rapidly affect us with problems that are subtle and hard to grasp and problems that are stark and hard to face.
- We are living in a world of political correctness where in too many cases, to express a differing opinion is “offensive” or “hateful” and we are increasingly accustomed to avoiding topics where someone might find a less than politically correct fact or argument “offensive” particularly because the politically correct feel free to attack the person, not the argument.
In 1838, Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois titled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions where he said,
“As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”