MPU Online: Be Civic and Be Present – Paying attention can make all the difference

By Brian Bass

I’ll be totally honest- I had trouble focusing on where to start with this post. And for good reason, because on some level we as humans are all over the place. We receive information from countless sources and at any given moment we can be focused on something important… only to drop it for something mind numbing or impulsive, or critical, or somehow neither, or even all of the above?

Crazy right?

Well- today’s mission is to make sure YOU are paying attention, you are engaging in current events around you and most importantly that you are involved in our democracy. It’s all about you!

In the modern world, it feels impossible to be caught up on everything happening.

People have jobs.

They have families.

They have hobbies.

They even sleep from time to time. But not usually — because there’s also this:

We exist in our own little worlds, connected to others physically, socially and digitally in ways that continue to evolve every generation. We’re alone, but we’re not really alone. And our dependence or independence from others could change in the blink of an eye, whether we realize it or not.

It’s fascinating to think about how the decisions of others impact our daily lives- and in this context we’re just going to think about politics and lawmaking. Because when it comes to paying attention to something, we need EVERYONE to tune in to how decisions are being made for us and what it means for our families. And our wallets. And our future.

CNN and Golf Channel are the two most popular channels I’ve got. Sports and politics are my life, and golf is my favorite pastime. If I’m not watching one, I’m watching the other. The advantage I have is that because I work in advocacy, I basically get paid to pay attention. It’s my job to know what is going on with the issues I deal with for my work and try to have a handle on what’s happening in the world.

But that doesn’t make it any easier, because so much happens all at once. Unless you have the time to watch the news 24/7 or you only care about a small handful of things, or you consciously choose not to be informed there is really no way to be prepared all the time for everything that you value. There’s the local scene, the statewide issues, the federal drama and even international affairs.

Maybe it’s the school your child attends that is underperforming or a local gang that is causing trouble in the neighborhood.

Or it’s the candidate for governor who will change laws that you support.

It could be the election of our next president that sends chills down your spine because his or her agenda is horrific for the people and values you support (I’m looking at you, President Trump).

For many families, it could be a truly international crisis, such as a hurricane, act of terrorism or political regime that threatens the people you love. As civically minded people, we’ve got to follow this, be informed and potentially make decisions (perhaps vote or support a movement) that concerns these matters.

The alternative is even scarier- a situation where we have no power at all on the decision making process and we’re left to live with the consequences. Let’s try to avoid that, please. Let’s not get to a place where we unconsciously relinquish ownership of our livelihood to others because we don’t show up or monitor what they’re doing in the political arena.

Making matters worse is we have to figure out what information is actually real and true, and what is cleverly packaged as true, but is actually false information. And today on the web it is getting harder every single day to decipher truth from fiction.

We are bombarded with divisive rhetoric, intricately built sites that spout fallacies to confuse us or worse- resources meant to create a false sense of security so we don’t dig deeper. And then we’re sharing this bad information with others!

I don’t know what makes me more frustrated- the “meme” culture we’ve created which replaces true debate with juvenile attempts at discourse, or repeated lies which only serve to undermine our best attempts at progress. It’s a lot of work.

In spite of all of this- my goal is to convince you that you need to get involved and help control your own destiny. If the schools aren’t educating our children the way that they should, we need to hold them accountable with our presence.

If elected officials are ignoring problems, refusing to change poorly designed laws or if they are overstepping their power, we need to hold them accountable. They are voted in by us, and they work for us. If we make it easy on them, we sacrifice the power we have over the decision making process.

If we do not give a voice to a particular policy position, the chances that it will become law are very slim. In this environment, there are always winners and losers and there are always competing interests. Self interest is a powerful motivator for anyone, especially entrenched forces who do not want to see change.

Some people want things to stay just the way they are- even when they know that it is hurting families or preventing progress. And some people know how to game the system so that they control the process. Look- you’re never going to completely eradicate that element- that’s just politics.

But if enough of us- all of us- pay attention, stay informed on what is happening and show up, we’ve got a chance to make change. We can force the hands of our lawmakers because they see the light- or they feel the heat. And as much as I want to believe that people will do the right thing without being told to, life has revealed to me that’s not actually the norm in politics.

So what can we do?

We can organize!

We go out and we find the people that feel the way we feel and we share our perspective with others to convince them to join our camp.

We create goals, we make plans and we take action. We take our seat at the table and make sure that we cannot be ignored.

It’s going to take time, but it will be worth it in the end.

This is our call to action. This is our mission. If we care about what happens to our families, if we want to make changes in politics then we cannot sit on the sidelines and hope for good outcomes. We’ve gotta step up, make the time and fight the good fight.

And it starts with registering to vote.

Get yourself registered so you can exercise your right to participate. And then get involved where you are. Join a group or committee. Find reliable news sources that are trusted. Figure out what matters to you and how you want to help. Take a moment to act because every moment counts.

Pay attention or you may pay the price.



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