With everything going on in our nation, it’s easy to forget our immediate surroundings.
Our nation is, however, built upon the brick and mortar, ideas and participation, of our local communities. It is to the latter, that of participation, we should turn our attention and reflect upon.
Democracy is not an easy system. It demands the best of us amid emotional turmoil, raised voices and busy lives. To be done well, democracy requires engagement even when we don’t feel that our voices are heard. It is based on principled behavior, not emotive reactions when triggered. Precisely because of that, non-participation often feels more legitimate as it delivers an immediate emotional response.
You have to wait to see whether the fruit of your research and hope placed in your selected candidate will pay off. Not so for refusing to vote. Not voting is the adult equivalent of a child’s temper tantrum: feels good based on a false sense of empowerment and has immediate rewards. With smug self-assurance you can look at everyone around you and declare yourself having “taken a stand,” even as doing so is cutting the legs off the very system that gives you the right to act in a puerile manner.
The recent primary election saw Kent voter turnout at 25.31 percent. Literally three-fourths of Kent’s registered participants in democracy abstained from doing their role as citizens. Inevitable is the venting, complaining and belly-aching that followed immediately and will continue through the election next fall.
However, if you want a better system, it means first participating in one that isn’t as good. Children rant about not having their cake and eating it too. Adults prepare themselves for the work ahead.
As Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station notes: “If you want a better nation, be better citizens.” What’s true for the nation is true for the cities upon which it’s built.
– David Teachout