July 25, 2011
The foundation of Wisconsin, it's people, awoke democracy from it's brief slumber this year. In past years, many had dismissed their personal responsibility. Some had placed blame for state troubles upon others exonerating their own inattentiveness.
Many are inclined to look at elected representatives saying, "It's their fault" rather than turn to the mirror and realize, "Hey! It's my fault!" Elections are consistently treated like popularity contests with attention to attractiveness in the media and an unquestioning belief in what is sold to us rather than taking the time to examine difficult issues, challenge what is presented, ask the right questions, and openly share with others. Widespread apathy and denial of personal responsibility may explain the present disfunction of government at all levels because, we the people, are the democracy we crave.
Democracy is a political system that begins and is nourished at the individual. It requires us to be individually responsible for being informed about public policy at all levels. It stipulates participation in the civic process. It demands we be tolerant and selfless for the common good.
Democracy calls us all to work toward mutual benefits; to work for unity while respecting differing values and opinions, and preserving the fundamental rights of individuals under our state and federal Constitutions while we practicing tolerance on an unprecedented, unlimited scale.
Democracy dictates nonviolent conflict resolution in a secular sphere where each and everyone is respected. It invites civility in exchanges on public issues where uncompromising fanaticism only discredits and debases intent. Personal responsibility is at the heart of long and stable democratic societies.
I first volunteered for political campaigns before I was eligible to vote. For nearly 40 years while my family relocated through 5 different counties within 2 neighboring states, I served consecutively as an elected political party officer in 4 different positions. My most recent office in Rock County was held for over 20 years. Resigning once, I came out of retirement for yet another 11 years when no one else stepped forward to do the necessary tasks. For far too long, too many have shirked their own role in keeping our democracy a vibrant, living philosophy always expecting "someone else" would just "do it".
In 2010, Wisconsin fell to an omniscient situation; a singularly bought-and-paid-for political ideology that culminated with those in power telling us they knew all that was needed to justify themselves and their actions no matter how it was destroying everything that defined the Wisconsin we love. The people of Wisconsin witnessed the integrity of our state damaged beyond recognition through unlimited corruption, and many political leaders lost all credibility. Legislation is now shaped by the highest bidder rather than by social need, accountability is compromised and totally ineffective, the justice system has been sold and politically manipulated, and most dire, in spite of all their numbers the citizenry remained too weak and ineffectual to check those causing the devastation.
The people know this is NOT what democracy looks like.
In our hearts, we know the political, religious, and economic freedoms provided to American citizens coexist with our promise to be responsible with active civic participation to safeguard those rights for ourselves as well as future generations. When the electorate is not paying attention, not participating, and not making informed choices, they reap the consequences. It took the demise of so much Wisconsin had always valued losing all we held near and dear, for the devastating consequences of inaction to stir many into personal involvement.
If we shy away from public discourse about "touchy" political topics, how will we really know one another to build a strong commonality? If we're fearful of creating controversy, how can we move forward with the truly good and unique ideas that would otherwise die from neglect and want of champions. If we retreat from action, how will future leaders be discovered and ascend?
The call has now gone out for individual responsibility where different ideas, different approaches, and different preferences replace all the apathy. Wisconsin is still a place where we all have a voice that is not just heard but welcomed by the people even if those currently seated in power still refuse to listen.
Labels of liberal or conservative are inclusive but certainly not exclusive when it comes to participation for the collective good. Do not let the cognitive dissonance of those in positions of power reign unchallenged as they tell you what you should think, believe and do. One person CAN change the world but it's far easier and much more fun when there are more sharing the many tasks. Everything you do affects our mutual world, and you, yourself, are responsible. You cannot say it wasn't your fault if you weren't participating. If you weren't paying attention, your languor was a factor.
We will only be able to restore and revive legitimate Wisconsin governance through shared participation developing relationships of common understanding, trust and collective commitment. These are not just "wants" but prerequisites to a functional democracy.
We have seen unbelievable and even miraculous citizen heroism in recent months but preemptive involvement by more people may have prevented our current challenges. Democracy has never been self-sustaining. Your participation is required to restore the best of Wisconsin's honest, transparent, and much revered heritage. It is our duty to make sure the vibrancy and vitality of democracy continues unrestricted and celebrated joyously.
Your choices today will have consequences tomorrow for democracy is, and always has been, a work in progress. In spite of whatever your level of involvement, you are a most important person in our world and how you act either reinforces or diminishes how we are all governed in Wisconsin. It either assists those who are already active or it places your share of duties upon them. Whether it be through philanthropic service, through civic development projects, by social enrichment endeavors, or even simply by staying informed and educating others, choose your task and engage it.
Do not let the Wisconsin’s forward momentum drift and die by neglect. Democracy is in our hands. It’s future and vigor is depending upon you.