Set 2021 Engaged Citizen Intentions
Perhaps you’re reflecting on this past year and looking forward with goals, resolutions, or evolution in mind. Whether it’s more or less of something, it likely revolves around physical fitness, diet, drinks, outdoor time, relationships, career, money, mental health, travel (please), meditation or spirituality or religious practice or… etc.,
What about setting intentions to be a more engaged citizen?
In Athens Greece, the birthplace of democracy around 5th century B.C.E, “all adult citizens were required to take an active part in the government. If they did not fulfill their duty they would be fined and sometimes marked with red paint.” That’s one way to activate citizens!
Something significant (but not the only thing) that happened in Greece that led to its fall — that could resonate with US citizens today — was constant warring between Greek city states weakening the country and making it difficult to unite against a common enemy. Greece fell into decline as a world power and Rome assumed that position and the rest is history. What do we learn from history?
“Democracy“ originates from the Greek words “demos” (people) and “kratos” (rule). People rule. Not i, not me, but we, together. A diverse community pulling together towards a unifying goal.
In my personal experience and continuing growth, I feel a lot more fulfilled, informed and part of a greater, beloved community when actively engaged in it. And when I’m engaged with eyes wide open, my perspective is: Today’s concerning trends and big problems could and should collectively be addressed with compassion, questioning minds and open hearts — not with name-calling, tribalism, or negativity. The latter is an easy path to take and often affirmed by our personal news sources and friend circles. When I’ve swerved into that lane, I end up alienating someone I love or respect, and then I don’t feel so great either. Must. Do. Better. We don’t have to agree on the cause or the topics or belong to the same political party, but I believe we do have to commit to respectfully work together to keep a functioning democracy intact.
What do YOU think we should do to rise above our current situation? What do you think it means to be a citizen? I would love to hear from you however you want to share.
My 2021 Engaged Citizen intentions are as follows —
- this is easy & critical— remain informed by reliable sources. Poynter does a good job of highlighting 2 media bias checkers to use — Allsides & Ad Fontes
- this is big — actively reject questionable info, not even “going there” just for a laugh, no matter how attractive the clickbait is or how personal it seems. it’s embellishment and we don’t have time for it if we’re up for making things better. use the source checker in #1 above to help with this.
- this is hard but fruitful— don’t avoid, & do engage in healthy in-person dialogue — without the goal of being right but with the goal of listening and validating (which is not the same as agreeing!) with people who may not share like-minded thoughts. this happened for me over the holidays, and i have a better understanding of someone because of it, and it opened the door to further dialogue and relationship-building. this is also a good Ted Talk: 10 ways to have a better conversation
- this is some constant homework — remain active and constantly flex this citizenship muscle — get to know where local, state and federal candidates stand on issues. remain engaged on some level. continue to call legislators. did you know that every year, tens of thousands of elections happen across this country at the local level, and the great majority of those go uncontested bc people aren’t paying attention at the local level, dont think local politics are important, dont care, or bc they think someone else is “taking care of it” — i am, & you are, seriously that someone else. perhaps consider running for something yourself?
- this is fun! — educate and inspire children, teens and young adults to understand and to get engaged in our democracy, to understand inequitable systems. Empower them to become active citizens. i’ve had so much fun watching so many of you this year — creating GOTV postcards & letter writing, marching, door-knocking, donating, volunteering or full-time activation on campaigns, calling lege with your babies. you are doing your part for democracy! “thoughts become words become actions become habits become character becomes your destiny…”
Elie Weisel, Holocaust survivor and author, said “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Could we be in this difficult, polarized, messy spot because we have been indifferent? We figured someone else was doing something? We were not connecting with or paying attention to people “unlike” us — our fellow citizens and neighbors? We were not setting goals tied to our citizenship? Taking citizenship for granted? (We fine-tune our cars, appliances, yards, bodies, minds, finances, etc… why not this?)
Every day in 2021, you will make a difference. What will that be? Use your voice. Use your muscle. Set some citizen intentions. Share them with someone who will hold you accountable to them. Start small — go big. Whatever feels comfortable. But do it. It’s a great day, everyday, to be a good citizen.
Change can and will happen. What part will you play?
I need to dance” — James Brown