On this Memorial Day, there will be a number of services all around the country honoring the fallen service members who sacrificed their lives for all the rest of us.
For freedom. For democracy. For all the things we hold dear as a country.
The ceremonies and wreath-layings will be nice, proper affairs. They will do a good job honoring those men and women. But it won’t be enough.
There’s something more we should do. Something that, quite honestly, we’re fairly terrible at in this state.
Educated political involvement.
That’s one of the things those heroes fight for. In fact, it’s the most important thing they fight for.
Your right to have a say in the government. Your right to go into a voting booth and cast a ballot for whichever candidate you wish. Your right to go to city council meetings and school board meetings and legislative sessions and be heard.
It’s one of the most important responsibilities we carry. And a good many of us are failing.
We’re allowing crooks and swindlers and con men to grab hold of power. We’re watching the working men and women get the shaft over and over and over again, while all the while possessing the power to stop it. We’re watching as our cherished institutions – like public education – crumble in front of us because of the ill intents and greed of a few.
And it’s because the majority of people of this state – the majority of eligible voters, even – have failed to uphold their end of the deal we made with the men and women who went off to war, never to return.
We told them they were going because American democracy was just that damned important. That it must be protected. That it was so precious we were willing to sacrifice that man’s son, that little girl’s father, his brother. And so they went and fought.
And back home … the burden of reading about issues and candidates and getting up off your can to go vote was just soooooo hard.
It’s pathetic, if you actually stop and think about it.
And look what we’ve become because of it. Our congress and state legislatures are filled with people you wouldn’t trust to water your plants while you were on vacation. You’d come home and half would be dead from neglect and the other half stolen.
We’ve allowed the wealthy and major corporations to rob us blind. We’ve watched as laws and rules and ways of life that used to protect and honor the working folks of this country have been systematically replaced by processes and bureaucracy that only serve as impediments and roadblocks to us.
Making it all worse, though, is the fact that so many of the working people of this country, in response to the unfair systems, have simply given up. They’ve quit trying. Stopped paying attention. Declared that politics is too aggravating. Deemed all politicians liars and crooks. Decided they’d just watch sports or TikTok or reality TV.
It’s a form of desertion. The sort of thing for which those soldiers we’re honoring today would go to prison.
But somehow it’s even more cowardly.
What are YOU afraid of? That you’ll learn too much? That you might get frustrated? That you won’t find your friends’ ignorant social media posts so funny?
Do you know how much better this state would be if just half of the uninvolved eligible voters actually spent an hour each week educating themselves on just local issues and candidates, and then casting a ballot? Do you know how much better our political representation would be if the people who represent us thought they might have to try?
It frustrates me to no end to hear people proudly proclaim to know nothing about politics. Or to say that they’ve just had enough. Or to laugh about failing to cast a ballot.
Because here’s the thing: You’re a deadbeat who’s failing to uphold your end of a deal.
All of those men and women we honor today, we made a deal with them. We told them democracy was worth their lives.
You owe it to them to act like it.