Civic responsibility

By Eric Gibble
November 07, 2011

Tuesday Nov. 8, polls will open for special elections in the United States Congress as well as local elections. While it is imperative to vote, it is equally as imperative to be cognizant of our other civic responsibilities.

The ability to change our laws in order to achieve the common good is one of the greatest aspects of our nation. We changed our laws to allow women to vote. We changed our laws to expand civil rights to all people. And in 2008, we elected a leader to bring change to the unethical trends that have plagued, corrupted and broken Washington.

We saw some change with that election. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed, which when fully implemented, aims to end the 45,000 deaths that occur every year due to Americans being uninsured.

Yet just two years later, Americans found themselves shifting towards a different change. This change was the polar opposite of what the American public asked for in 2008. A group of conservative leaders and big business owners began a movement so they could secure their corporate subsidies and lucrative tax breaks on the backs of working families.

Now we are outraged, but should we be? In the 2010 midterm elections, we elected representatives to the House that openly opposed the funding of the vital services that provide health and service to seniors, single mothers, children, and minority communities.

In the aftermath of that election, 1 in 15 people now ranks among the nation’s poorest of the poor, living on less than $11,000 a year. The wealth gap continues to expand at the expense of working families. Now, more than ever, we must raise our voices. Instead of focusing on the wealth gap, politicians on Capitol Hill are focused on slashing funding to various programs.

The reality is that a smaller government will not meet the needs of the poor or put millions back to work. A smaller government will not be able to meet our needs during a disaster like Hurricane Katrina. A smaller, deregulated government will not protect us from contamination in our water and food. But neither will a disorganized, fraudulent government lacking oversight. What we need is a smart government, one that protects our well-being. However, this is not possible if we keep dismantling our federal programs with devastating cuts.

Apathy has, unfortunately, become a disease in our society. Besides voting on Election Day, we seem to regress back into our daily routine of observing and complaining about the injustice in our world. Fortunately, signs have shown that there is change occurring. People are taking action, and it’s beginning with holding big banks accountable for their actions.

The Occupy Movement spread like wildfire despite ridicule and a blackout from the mainstream media. But unlike most social movements, this one is spurring change outside of the polls. In this past month, 650,000 Americans cashed out of big banks that caused the 2008 economic meltdown and put their money into credit unions. That amount of people totals more than joined credit unions in 2010 combined. Last week, America’s 5th busiest port in Oakland, California was shut down in a general strike in response to violent tactics used by police on Occupy protesters there.  The national conversation is now focused on how Wall Street has occupied America.

Politicians must realize that change is not just a word they can throw around to save their own corrupt careers. It is an action the American people are demanding from them. We must keep the momentum of accountability present not only in the coming 2012 election, but also in our daily lives as well. Anyone can press a button or pull a lever when voting, but it takes Americans willing to participate in civic action to bring truly meaningful change.

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