Every day, I see article after article fretting about the State of Trump in America. Climate change. Income inequality. Pollution. Corruption. Opioids. Human trafficking. Automation. The list of misery goes on and on. But few are willing to point out the real reason we are here, at this point in time, a nation divided, polarized and paralyzed. We are here because self governance is hard.
For many, participation in self governance is watching commercials and voting. Well, if you just vote, you’re only deciding who gets to cut the checks and write the rules. There is far more to self governance than that. If you participate in the rulemaking process of the executive branch, you help to decide how to execute the law. And if you file a lawsuit, or sit on a jury, you get to help decide how the laws are interpreted. Unfortunately, most people would rather sit at home and watch Netflix or a football game than to participate in every branch of government.
Most of that stuff is boring. It really is. Ever been to a city hall meeting? They decide on zoning ordinances, the budget, the Employee Of The Month, and give an award to some kid who saved an old lady from near certain death. Most times, they’re not talking about what you want to talk about.
I’m a member of the HOA board in my community where I sit and participate in self governance. This is really boring stuff. What to do with the dog park, towing cars that are still parked on the street when it snows, what kind of gazebo should we have there in our private park, setting up a dog poop baggie station, and the list goes on. A lot of it is boring. A lot of it seems to have nothing to do with my life. But every decision, no matter how trivial, has a small impact on my life.
I’ve also been secretary of a few 12-step meetings. I have had to get the chairs out, get the reading materials, and get there early to prepare the room for a meeting. I’ve sat in business meetings where we discuss what we’re going to do with the tiny sums the meeting takes in. I’ve called votes. I’ve managed meeting bank accounts. All of that is self governance.
Self governance requires our time. It requires our time away from home, away from family, away from the comfort of familiar surroundings. Self governance can often be boring, sometimes it feels futile to even try. But unless we want to be ruled by a dictator, this is what we must do to be free.
You see the people marching in the streets? They’re marching because it’s too late. They didn’t attend the meetings where, over a period of years or months, an unpopular decision was made. By the time the people are marching in the streets, years of decision making processes have been completed.
Legislative committee hearings, debates and votes in the legislature, board meetings, public hearings, requests for public comment and even lawsuits, can all have a bearing on how a law is written, executed and interpreted. All of that stuff takes time. Time away from family, work, hobbies and other things we’d rather be doing.
Most people have crammed their lives so full of stuff to do, that they really don’t have time to participate in self governance. They’re working 2 or 3 jobs. Or they’re working 60–80 hour weeks. They’re spending 6 hours a day watching TV. They’re raising kids. They’re dealing with health problems. They’re dealing with family drama. They’re checking out at a local bar.
If we’re lucky, we have time to attend. If we have money, we have access to the decision making process because money gives us the time to participate. Work is better if we don’t need the money. Self governance is really hard work.
But if we all took some time to participate in the process, our lives would be better. We would not spend so much time being ruled by our inferiors. We would not need to march in the streets because we would have been there, from the beginning, helping to stop an unpopular decision from even getting onto the books (or making a popular decision happen). We would have presented evidence to convince those who have the power, that this is not such a good idea. We would have been the eyes watching those who are in power, affirming that they are being watched, and that they will be held accountable when they do not serve the people well.
If you have stress over Trump, you have only yourself to blame. The people who helped bring Trump to power were at countless meetings to get him there. If you’re unhappy with some law or ordinance, the people who made that happen were at many hours of boring meetings to make that happen. They wrote reports, they wrote letters, they worked tirelessly to make the laws bend to their will.
What I like about Trump is this: he’s the lightning rod that is waking up the left. He’s the force that is literally pushing the Democratic Party to the left, back to the place where it was in the 1970’s. With people like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading the way at the national level, we finally have someone speaking for the rest of us.
Bernie Sanders started out in city government. Then he was elected mayor. Then he was elected to the US House of Representatives. Then the US Senate. And now he’s running for president. Most of the people who are in high office now, have spent a good chunk of their life attending meetings, writing letters, and have been showing up in government for years to make sure their voices are heard.
If you don’t like the way things are now, show up. Go to the city council meeting on Tuesday night. Follow a bill that interests you and show up at the committee meeting where they decide whether or not that bill should go to the floor. Find a proposed regulation that interests you and read the public comments, and make a comment for or against that regulation. Write a letter.
Self governance is about showing up. I’ve submitted comments on proposed regulations. I’ve written hundreds of freedom of information act requests. I’ve written letters to my representatives in Congress and at the state level. I’ve attended city council meetings. There is a measurable impact. I can see it, even with my trivial attendance, involvement, what have you, I can see it.
Show up and get your self governance on.