Take personal responsibility for educating yourself on the candidates

There are two things that I still believe in passionately:

1. Participation in our political process is important, and

2. Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it

By participation in our political process, I don’t just mean voting. I used to feel that way. I have voted in pretty much every election going back several decades. I felt good about it, and would privately pat myself on the back for doing so. After all, voting is the means by which our voice is heard. Right?

Well, I’m not so sure that’s enough anymore. I still think voting is a privilege not to be taken lightly, a huge responsibility, and potentially one’s most important civic duty.

However, I now believe that in addition to voting, we need to openly and routinely engage in dialogue with each other about our political views. I’m not talking about volunteering to help some candidate, contributing money, or actually running for office (though each of those would be great if so motivated). I’m just talking about engaging in some friendly discussions with your neighbors from time to time.

We have been taught since the beginning of time to shy away from discussions about religion and politics. I do believe there is wisdom in keeping one’s views regarding religion private.

However, on the political front, I think we need to learn to open up a little more with one another. Our silence contributes to the apathy, ignorance, and misconceptions that abound. Besides, I was always taught that a good and vigorous discussion was a healthy (and sometimes fun) endeavor. (Those that know me know that sometimes I have a little too much fun during these “discussions.”)

However, it serves a valuable purpose for me because I’m constantly learning. I’m learning about myself, the issues that I care about, the issues concerning others and it also enables me to keep a finger on the pulse, so to speak, of my community.

Our nation has certainly had its share of growing pains, but it is precisely when we come together that progress is made. We have a rich history of working together to solve problems, or at least to make our problems more manageable.

It is my opinion that our progress, over the last 200 years, is the direct result of actions by motivated people, whether via protest, or innovation from the private sector, or just one person whose passion/talent was a catalyst for change. We have historically been responsible for our own vision.

Unfortunately, it seems that in recent years, we have become all too willing to extricate ourselves from the process and rely on others (e.g., government, media, educators, etc.) to define our future for us.

It’s not hard to see the progression: the populace is indifferent towards the political process and their representation; the media (or educators) convey their own particular bias to the voters at every opportunity; and the voter (those who bother at this point) suddenly becomes motivated at the eleventh hour and casts his/her vote without ever challenging themselves to analyze what they stand for and whether or not the person(s) they voted for would actually represent their interests. Say it with me now, “We’ve got exactly what we deserve.”

As to my second point, those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it, there are many examples throughout history that (unfortunately) illustrate this:

• Ignorance of others inevitably leads to discrimination – This is one that societies throughout the ages just don’t seem to learn from. Examples abound and include: Ancient Egyptians and the Jews, Native Americans and the “New” Americans, just being a Japanese-American citizen during WWII. And possibly the worst example of all, the enslavement of people by those who have practiced it throughout time (and in some cultures still do).

• Religious intolerance that leads to violence – The list of examples here is long and well documented.

• Governmental excess over its people which leads to revolution by the people – A few examples here would be the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and India’s independence from the British Empire.

• Absolute power that corrupts absolutely – No need to cite examples or explain this one.

OK, so I think you understand my point here. If we want to become a better society, one that is more enlightened, and become a better world citizen, we must first understand our past. And by our past, I’m talking about mankind’s past. History is one of our greatest teachers and it provides an education that’s freely available to all, if we just seek its counsel.

So, what do these two passions of mine have to do with one another?

To help answer this question, let me pose a thought experiment for you. Assuming that you believe, as I do, that our government and the people it theoretically represents no longer share the same vision for the United States, when do you believe this happened?

Was it at the turn of the 20th century when laws, with terrible unintended consequences, were passed to “protect us” from the Robber Barons? Or maybe it was just before the First World War when we instituted the federal income tax (ostensibly to help fund the war)? Or maybe it was after the New Deal policies of the FDR administration? Or maybe it was Johnson’s Great Society? Or maybe it was Nixon’s Watergate legacy? Or maybe it was ...? Just when do you believe our government ran amok?

I must confess, for the purposes of my point here, it’s a trick question. The reason it’s a trick question is because it doesn’t matter how you answered the question.

Since the Civil War, there have only been two political parties in power throughout this entire time, the Republicans and Democrats. They have created this mess. So no matter when you believe our government lost its way, there can be no disputing who is responsible.

This brings us all the way back to my two passions (sorry it took so long to get here). I still believe in this country and especially its citizens. I am more passionate about participating in its evolution than ever before. However, I also know (because history has taught us oh so well) that we must learn from our past mistakes so as not to re-live them.

I therefore urge everyone to reflect on their political stances, seek out candidates you feel would actually represent your positions, and talk it over with others (if for no reason other than to challenge your own positions and thought processes). I would then ask you to seriously consider voting for anyone BUT a Republican or a Democrat.

M. Joseph Bowman

Peachtree City, Ga.

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