As I read news, articles, blogs–the stuff that comes across my screen every day–I often save articles that might merit a blog post at some future time. One that I saved was a column in the Washington Post reacting to President Obama’s farewell speech.
It was surprisingly upbeat. (Also thoughtful, literate, coherent…elements I miss more than I ever thought I would…)
“Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted,” Obama said, in his best line of the night. “All of us should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our Democratic institutions.” At another point, he noted: “We all have to try harder.”
To that end, Obama urged people to volunteer. To organize. To run for office in their own right. To swap social media fights for in-person conversations.
Obama’s warning against taking democracy for granted made me think of the old story about the little boy who never talked. As a baby, he didn’t babble; at two and three his parents took him to specialists, none of whom could find anything wrong with him. He simply never talked.
One morning, when he was nearly five, his mother was giving him breakfast when he suddenly blurted out “This toast is burned.” His mother was amazed. “Why haven’t you ever said anything before!” To which he replied, “So far, everything’s been okay.”
We Americans have been a lot like that little boy. As long as our toast wasn’t burned, we’ve ignored the signs that the toaster was malfunctioning, and left the job of tending our democratic institutions to others. We can’t afford to do that anymore. We can’t afford to simply commiserate with like-minded friends and criticize those who dismiss the threat to our Constitutional system and the rule of law.
Discussion is important, but ultimately insufficient.
I’ve mentioned the Activism Engine site before. It’s important because it is a way to turn information into engagement. As the site has undergone its “beta” rollout, it has been made even easier to use–and specifically, easier for people to share information about concrete actions that can be taken.
Now anyone can go to the site and post an item about proposed legislation or an upcoming direct activity–no account or training needed.
Try it! To add information about legislation, go here. For other kinds of direct action, post here. And even if you don’t have an action to suggest, make checking it a part of your routine to see what actions you can take.
In the month since “no drama” Obama turned the White House over to “all drama, all the time” Trump, many of us are no longer taking American democracy for granted, but there is a difference between concern (okay, panic) and consistent, constructive action.
We know the toast is burned. Now we need to fix the toaster.