The Role of a Citizen

I was talking to a friend whom I had invited to a “political” event just recently, and she said “I know you’re into that kind of stuff, but it’s just not my thing. I don’t DO politics.” 

To my friends who think this way, I must ask: if you’re a citizen of this country, and if you are paying attention at all, do you think there is someone else who will do your part to ensure we don’t lose this brief glimpse of democracy that was so hard fought for and won some 240+ years ago? Someone else who will protect your right, or your children’s right, to drink clean water or breathe clean air, to vote, to speak freely about what you believe, to make decisions about your or their own body if you or they happen to be female, to have access to care if you are sick or in need of help, to have a habitable planet to live on without the constant threat of climate chaos disrupting your or their ability to sustain life, to maintain some hope for the future? Is there someone else who will protect you or your neighbor from being attacked, imprisoned, deported, condemned or even killed for what you believe, the color of your skin, your place of origin, whom you love, how you pray, or any number of characteristics that might distinguish you or them from the increasingly narrow margin of those deemed “acceptable” by a small minority? To ensure that this same minority of right-wing, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic extremists who are currently working within our government at a lightning pace to dismantle the very institutions, checks and balances that were put in place to ensure that this fledgling democracy would not slip toward despotism or fascism DO NOT SUCCEED? To ensure that the divisions being very intentionally created and encouraged here and abroad by a self-serving man-child with dictatorial aspirations, and by a corrupt government unwilling to challenge him, will not dissolve into a cataclysmic civil war? 

I do not ask these questions to be alarming, or extreme. I ask them because, now more than ever, perhaps, the freedoms we hold most dear, the country we love, and the planet we live on, are in grave danger - and really, NO ONE can afford to sit this one out or suggest it is somehow “not their problem.” Citizenship is a responsibility, and by choosing not to be part of the collective process that ensures the creation of an America - and ultimately, a world - that works for everyone, you are making a choice to relinquish your role as a citizen, and leave it to others to determine – for better or worse – what kind of world we will live in. 

What IS truly alarming or extreme, as author and climate activist Bill McKibben once stated, is a corporate CEO or a government representative who goes to work making products or decisions that will knowingly harm people or planet in the name of short-term profit or personal gain – and yet this happens every single day here, and around the world. Thus it is even more incumbent upon those of us who care, who are consciously awakened or struggling to awaken more fully - and ESPECIALLY those of us in a spiritual teaching or other belief system that proclaims our oneness with all of life, that teaches love, compassion, unity, inclusion, peace and the principle of being our brother’s keeper, to step forward and be a voice for the voiceless, and for those whose voices are being suppressed or not being heard, as well as for the magnificent creation entrusted to our care, and of which we are a part. 

Yes, we are all incredibly busy living our lives, raising our children, working our jobs or careers, trying to maintain some kind of balance with so many demands on our time. That is absolutely true for so many of us. And YES, there has been a groundswell of grassroots activism and engaged citizenship in the last several years (coinciding, not accidentally, with the coming to power of this aforementioned would-be dictator), the likes of which I’ve not seen in my adult lifetime (or since a childhood at the tail end of the “baby boomer” generation, when the fight for civil rights and opposition to the Vietnam war galvanized a generation to come forward, and to speak out and express in ways previously unseen). That is incredibly encouraging, and wonderful work is ALWAYS being done by amazingly heroic ordinary people all around the country and the world to counter this sharp turn toward the right, and toward separatism and intolerance. 

But there is still so much work to be done, requiring ALL of us who believe in a unified and progressive vision for our country and world to step up and be part of the solution. Our politics are a reflection of who we are and what we believe at the very deepest level. We can’t separate ourselves from that without separating ourselves from life itself. Don’t go back to sleep. We love you and we need you.

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