It’s true. We have a duty as Americans to hold our elected officials accountable, regardless of whether or not they received our vote. Politicians have job descriptions and responsibilities just like any of us do, and similar to when any of us slacks off on the job, they must also run the same risk of being terminated and replaced. The presidency is the most important job of this country, and for that reason, we must hold any person elected to that position accountable for their actions. These are undeniable burdens that go along with a democracy, and these truths remain intact regardless of how strong or weak that democracy is perceived to be.
But I wonder if perhaps the majority of Americans need a lesson in personal accountability for themselves before tending to the accountability of others.
Politics are a reflection of culture, and while many of us demand that our politicians be refined, educated, reasonable, and rich in spirit and character, our cultural values hardly embody this. We are a nation of distracted, uninvested, uninformed people and this is mostly due to the fact that in order to receive any real and relevant information regarding any election of any kind, it requires looking beyond 30 second commercial messages, postings on the Facebook news feed, or viral tweets. Facing information means facing all that is positive and negative about a candidate, a historical event, or a group of people with an objective lens. These things make people uncomfortable. These things take away from watching mindless television that makes us laugh, taking selfies, or gossiping about people we don’t even know whose names and faces often mean more to us than any proposition or bill measure.
It’s much easier to interject spurts of opinion through fiery comments left on YouTube videos or on posted stories. Of course one can find validation among gathering with like-minded individuals in online groups or through a similar Twitter following, and being validated feels good. But, are any of these practices actually making a difference that matters? Or do they simply serve to divide us as people? Taking action goes beyond our profile pages and devices. Stepping into the arena where real decisions are made, attending meetings and hearings to have our voices heard, and daring to educate ourselves beyond just what is comfortable or supports the views we identify most with – those are all actions.
We also have a responsibility to elevate ourselves to be the people we want to see serving us. Not everyone is cut out for politics, but if you don’t want a politician in office who practices sexual indiscretion, uses vulgar language, or can’t speak coherently in public forums, you owe it to yourself to at least try to model the same standards. Don’t gripe about a president who uses crude language to refer to women but give praise when artists who use similar language in their music win Grammy awards. Don’t criticize a candidate for making incoherent arguments during a debate when you aren’t civil enough to graciously and maturely agree to disagree with your neighbor or coworker whose views don’t match your own. Don’t complain that there isn’t enough Christianity in our land when you haven’t given your own Bible an honest read in over a year. Don’t complain that the candidates you have to choose from are lousy when you aren’t demanding the best your party can offer every year, not just those with elections in them. Lastly, don’t preach about disliking how much hate you see in the world, but make threats and wish death upon people in comment sections; the false security your computer screen and vague avatar provide are still not enough to eliminate the hypocrisy of your actions. As Dr. King stated, “wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
The election is over, the results are final, and in just two months, a changing of the guard will occur. While it isn’t the outcome some expected, it’s the outcome we have, and progress is hardly ever obtained by looking backward. If you feel you deserve better, resolve to do better. If you think he’s a dumb president, make sure you educate yourself so that you can make that statement confidently. If you think you’re powerless to change anything, consider for a moment that the incoming Commander in Chief had no prior experience before being appointed to that seat. Experience isn’t everything, and everyone starts somewhere. Now is a great time to pick your starting line.