How to become conversant in politics and government.
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In 1835, noted historian and political commentator Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, published his famous book, “Democracy in America,” which was an analysis of our young country as compared to those in Europe. This was based on his travels through America in 1831 and 1832. The book, which is frequently referenced even to this day, contains his observations on the young country, everything from its geographical layout, to its culture, and particularly its new political system as a democratically elected republic as opposed to a monarchy.
Tocqueville was particularly taken by the American public education system. He was amazed to see children as young as second grade be completely literate, something normally reserved for the aristocracy in Europe. He was also taken by how knowledgeable children were in the workings of the government as defined by the U.S. Constitution. He wrote, “It cannot be doubted that, in the United States, the instruction of the people powerfully contributes to the support of a democratic republic;”
When you compare the America of the early 19th century to today, you will find students, even college graduates, who have no sense of history, no sense of the mechanics of our government at any level, and no sense of current events. Somehow we dropped the ball along the way. We now have a couple of generations of Americans who are content to limp along as apathetic sheeple. The second graders of the 1830’s are mental giants by comparison. Not surprising, the politicians of today appeal to the voters through emotion rather than logic. It has become too easy to deceive and misdirect the under informed public.
However, for those who want to get back on track, to learn about the government and current events, there are plenty of resources available.
1. Discuss – learn to discuss such subjects with your family, friends and colleagues, but be careful, political discussion can lead to arguments and disrupt harmony. If you can find such people though interested in participating in discussions, it can make for some interesting mental gymnastics.
In schools, it would be nice to see government and history courses reintroduced, and, No, not just from the 20th century forward. How about the 18th or 17th centuries instead?
Understand your rights as a citizen and the the mechanics of government by becoming familiar with our governing docs.
Two books come to mind which can help:
“The 5000 Year Leap” by W. Cleon Skousen, is an excellent primer to describe why our government is organized the way it is. As far as I’m concerned, this should be on the reading list for every high school student.
For those who wish to be a little more ambitious, let me suggest Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, which provides interesting insight as to the differences between the United States and the rest of the world. The book is rather thick, but stimulating nevertheless.
Learn to read and watch the news. More importantly, challenge the accuracy of the news and beware of newscasters trying to spin it.
2. Write – Want to do more? How about writing your Congressmen? Whether you voted for them or not, these people are charged to represent you. Do not hesitate to ask questions or discuss your views on certain subjects. Remember, they work for you, not the other way around. You can also write the President of your concerns. Also learn to contact your local and state officials.
While you’re at it, post your views in your local newspapers in the “Letters to the Editor” section.
Linking to such political and news organizations via social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, is also a good way of staying abreast of news stories, and opinions.
3. Activism – finally, volunteer your time in various political and nonprofit organizations, thereby allowing you to rub elbows with people of similar interests and help push forward those items you feel are important. As we approach the mid-term elections, and you are interested in party politics, you may want to hold a sign or walk a neighborhood in support or your favorite politician or cause. Just remember to maintain your composure, especially when doors are closed in your face.
As Tocqueville suggests, citizens have an implicit civic responsibility to become educated in the workings of government and to maintain a sense of history. Becoming a sheeple is not conducive for improving government.
Keep the Faith!