Our Founding Fathers envisioned a government that received its powers from the governed. It required an informed, highly involved electorate. An active, educated constituency makes its presence known and serves as a check on the excesses of government. Without the involvement of the people, our government is highly susceptible to the actions of unscrupulous, corrupt forces intent on their own agenda to the detriment of our country. Our freedoms, liberty and prosperity are at stake. As Plato observed, “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” As Americans we must wake up and become an active part of the political process. Our tradition of freedom and self-determination is at stake.
Political apathy is a lack of interest in politics and the political process. It may stem from a feeling that involvement is a waste of time, that it doesn’t really change anything. It may be a simple lack of interest. Quite often we have so many distractions in our lives there just doesn’t seem to be enough time for involvement in the matters of state. Political activity will either protect our freedoms and our liberty or political inactivity will become the means of losing them. What are our priorities and how important is it to us?
Part of the problem may be the age we live in. Our technology is such that 24-hour news stations, social media and entertainment flood us with a constant barrage of inconsequential, mindless misinformation. Most of what we see on the news is so trivial, so irrelevant as to be meaningless. We have been in a state of war for so long that even war news is irrelevant to most viewers. Not since World War II has a war effort affected our lifestyle or financial well-being. Wars have become distant for most of us.
But when I think of the youth who have had their lives cut short, mothers who have lost sons, wives who raise families with no husbands and children who grow up without fathers it strikes me that that we have a great responsibility to protect the blessings of this land that so many have died for. How do we explain to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren that they are living under an oppressive tyranny because we didn’t care enough to get involved? Are we really that busy?
The battle against apathy is a battle for our minds. While we weren’t paying attention, our government became the ruler over us from whom it originally got its power. Somehow we willingly gave up many of the freedoms that previous generations sacrificed so much for. A quote widely attributed to Adolph Hitler puts it like this: “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” His own ascension to power proved the truth of that statement. We, the grass-roots of America, must be aware and must think and act to prevent tyranny from being thrust upon us as Hitler did to Germany. We, tragically, are following the same script.
Our schools are at the center of this battle. By not teaching about our Constitution and the other documents important to the foundation and culture of our republic, our children enter life ignorant of much critically important knowledge concerning how our government functions and our responsibility towards it. This becomes especially crucial as our children enter universities that, according to recent news reports, are rife with professors eager to destroy or fundamentally change our way of life.
One way to help overcome apathy is to be involved in our schools and in the education of our children. We don’t have to home-school, although that is a viable alternative, but we do need to be involved in our children’s education. When was the last time you went to your children’s school and talked to an administrator or teacher? When was the last time you attended a local school board meeting? Have you ever? Have you ever run for a position on the school board?
As far as that goes, when did you last go to a town council meeting or a meeting of the county commissioners? Have you ever volunteered to serve on a local board for the library or senior citizens or planning and zoning? Have you ever been in contact with your local state senator or representative over an issue that mattered to you? Have you ever written or called your senator or representative serving in Washington? These things matter. Local politics is the foundation that state and national politics are built on. There has to be a high level of participation and political awareness for our laws to function properly and for our nation to develop to its fullest.
Some claim that the apathy we see today is a sign of contentment. It indicates that most people are satisfied with how our government is run. And yet, polls indicate otherwise. Only about 3% of Americans believe government will always do what is right. Only 14% believe government will do what is right most of the time. There are always things that need changing, issues that most of us would like to see addressed and, perhaps, changed.
Some individuals indicate that their lives are just so busy they don’t have time to serve in some of these functions or even attend a meeting or two. That makes it a matter of priority, a matter of recognizing our responsibility for the blessings we are so eager to enjoy. Unfortunately, too many of us reflect the thoughts of the Italian author and journalist Giosue’ Borsi who said, “The great thought, the great concern, the great anxiety of men is to restrict, as much as possible, the limits of their own responsibility.” It’s imperative we not restrict, but recognize and fulfill our civic responsibilities.
Political apathy is a danger to us all. It affects how our country functions. Our involvement is the only check on the otherwise constant growth of government and usurpation of power from us to it. The author Stephen Crane put it like this, “Philosophy should always know that indifference (bold print added) is a militant thing. It batters down the walls of cities and murders the women and children amid the flames and the purloining of altar vessels. When it goes away it leaves smoking ruins, where lie citizens bayonetted through the throat. It is not a children’s pastime like mere highway robbery.” Political apathy is a danger we must overcome.
Each of us has the responsibility to be active and to set an example of well-informed political participation in our families and communities. Our liberty depends on it.
Jim Eyre is a retired rancher, mechanic and powerhouse operator who lives in Lyman. He has served on the local school board and been involved in other community and church activities.