So, you want to live in a democracy? – Natasha Bajema

So, you want to live in a democracy?

All of this politics stuff is stressing me out. Seriously, my anxiety has been running higher than normal for several months. I don’t know if I can continue staying engaged for much longer without burning out.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you’re pretty stressed too. And I bet that you’re sick and tired of all the political rants and articles being posted on Facebook and wish that we could return to pictures of cute kids, puppies and cats. Me too.

Life is busy with jobs, bills, mortgages, kids, dogs (and cats I guess), housework, lawn care, car repairs, health issues, etc. Our to-do lists are endlessly long and time is extremely short. Life trudges along without mercy, regardless of what happens in Washington D.C. Why should we care what happens in our nation’s Capital? Who has the energy for it?  Honestly, we don’t have any extra time for politics. We also don’t feel like we can do anything about it anyway. And to make things even worse, we don’t like it that all that much. It always seems so negative all the time. There are always people who are unhappy about something. You know what? Let’s just stick our heads in the sand and pretend politics don’t exist. Deal?

But you can’t do this (see recent magazine covers which capture the current political atmosphere in the United States)…that is if you care about whether or not we live in a democracy-a free society in which we can pursue our own happiness and goals with minimal interference from the government. A society in which we can speak our minds freely, not having to worry about our neighbor reporting our political views to the government or being thrown in jail for disagreeing with the President. A free society in which we can practice religion and express our faith however we wish. If you don’t care about any of this, then stop reading. This post is not for you.

If you do care, maybe you’re suffering from one of four syndromes and need some encouragement. During these tumultuous times, it’s best to “keep calm and resist on” in any way that you can.

I don’t like getting political on Facebook, because it’s a place where I want to catch up on what my friends and family are doing in their lives. Recently, I’ve abandoned this view and have posted quite a few articles and occasionally a rant in response to what is happening in our country. I’ve heard several complaints, and I promise to make an effort to calm down (and post more puppy pics). In the meantime, I hope that you don’t decide to unfriend me or worse unfollow me but keep me as a friend if I continue to post occasionally.

I do this politics thing for a living and consider it my patriotic duty to make my friends and family aware of what is happening in our country during this uncertain time. And before you think I’ve gone all radical or something, I should also note that I am a conservative-leaning Independent and have voted for more Republicans than Democrats. I am deeply concerned about the direction our country is taking at the moment, and if you care about the free society I described above, you should be too.

If you care about what’s happening, then I have some uncomfortable news for you. If you want to continue living in a democracy, then you’re going to have to work for it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back to the election year in 2000. Maybe because we’re in a similar boat. In 2000, President George W. Bush won the Electoral College, but narrowly lost the popular vote to Al Gore. Interestingly, there were no calls for investigation into voter fraud when the Florida recount came back still in favor of President Bush. I also remember the election because I was living in California at the time. Three hours ahead of the East Coast, the news agencies were calling the election for Al Gore around 9pm PST. My housemate and I went out for ice cream to celebrate. But by the time we came home, the numbers had shifted over to George Bush. I’ll never forget that moment.

Weeks afterward, my housemate and I would discuss politics on our walks through the beautiful neighborhoods of Pacific Grove. She was very unhappy with many political issues and wanted things to change. I encouraged her to write to her Representative in Congress to express her views and she got angry with me. You see, she was a nurse taking care of people in an old folks’ home and didn’t have time for politics. I, on the other hand, was in graduate school, studying politics. “Fixing this is YOUR job, not mine,” she said to me. I disagreed. “No, because we live in a democracy, fixing problems, holding our politicians accountable, that’s OUR job.” She refused to admit that I was right. I told her that if she was depending on me to fix all the problems in Washington, then she’d better prepare to be disappointed.

Democracy is “of the people, by the people, for the people” as President Abraham Lincoln stated succinctly in the Gettysburg address delivered in 1863 during the American Civil War. He also reminded us that we must continue fighting for the freedoms for which much blood was shed.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

President Abraham Lincoln, 1863

In recent months, there our many signs that the freedoms bestowed upon us by the founding fathers of our nation are at risk. This means that all citizens need to pay attention, hold politicians accountable, do what they can to fight injustice and illiberal policies in their own spheres and take up the cloak of activism if necessary.

Yes, that means that while you get your kids up for school, drive to work, do your job, cook dinner, clean the house…you also need to pay attention to our political system and ensure that the basic protections of liberty and checks and balances provided by the Constitution remain intact. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, we all need to act now to save our Republic and become an engaged citizenship that holds our politicians accountable on both sides of the aisle and in between.

What can you do?

  1. Talk about politics with friends and family (Ewwww!!!) to make sure that people are at least aware of what is going on. Always agree to disagree.
  2. Call your Representative in Congress and your Senators to make your voice heard on issues that matter to you
  3. Donate to organizations fighting to protect civil liberties or advocating for issues you care about
  4. Buy a subscription to your newspaper or even better a national newspaper of your choice to support hard-hitting journalism (Yes, they’ve been sliding a bit, but we need media to shine a light on politicians, good and bad)
  5. Volunteer for an organization that supports a cause you believe in
  6. Write a blog to share your views; write op-eds; write political articles
  7. March in political demonstrations to show your agreement or disagreement

These are a few ideas. But I implore you to DO something and stand up for the country you believe in, whatever form that takes. We’re running a marathon, not a sprint. STAY CALM AND RESIST ON.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.