“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
You have a civic duty.
We don’t much like the word duty in our country right now. Our desire for individual liberties often goes off-roading into individual selfishness as a society. This greed is not unique to today’s America. Selfishness is something every nation state must address at all times.
Sustaining liberty and real citizenship takes work. Here are seven things you don’t want to hear about citizenship that our country needs from you.
1. Honesty — Your country needs you always to tell the truth and earn an honest living. Follow the laws of the land in which you reside. If you don’t like the laws, you have only three options. You can partner with public servants such as local, state, and federal government officials and alter a law. You could seek to win the office of a public servant yourself to change the rules yourself. Or, finally, change your location so that you can be under laws of a different jurisdiction. Don’t break laws because your opinion is different than what is our current law. If we are honest with each other, we have little to fear. We can embrace enterprise with reduced corruption, we can enact changes to laws without pork belly legislation being tacked onto a bill under the guise of a friendly bill title, and we can improve our union each day by dealing with the reality of where we are and what needs to become better.
2. Unity — Your country needs you to rank unity over your opinion or your comfort. 2016 has been the year of divisiveness. Our political campaigns for president of our great nation epitomized divisive behavior. Candidates often insulted another candidate’s treatment of a particular group. Citizens must acknowledge differences but appreciate our common bonds. We must prioritize our unity above our differences. Even after our elections finished, our national media speculated on which particular demographic subset was responsible for the results. Class warfare and racism have no place in our democracy. Your civic duty is to converse with all those that are like you (Americans!) rather than blame a “them” that you have never sat down with and sought to understand. To fulfill your civic duty is to debate in such a way that you can disagree on how to move the country towards a more perfect union, but agree that we should move towards a more perfect union. You cannot participate in unity through isolating yourself from other’s opinions that differ from your opinion either. Remember, unity starts small. Unity comes from families, neighborhoods, cities, and then and only then can it be displayed on a state and national level.
3. Justice — Your country needs you to be just. A nation that honors and upholds justice is one that can endure the test of time. In a just society, those who fulfill a civic duty to be industrious and not be a burden on society are justly rewarded for their work through fair enterprise and capitalism, while those who cheat, lie, steal, and harm are punished. To be a good citizen, you must be willing to deal with the consequences of your actions and let others deal with the consequences of their actions as well. In addition to being a citizen keenly aware of meritocracy, one who is upholding their civic duty cannot stand idly by while injustice is happening in their community. It is our civic duty to bring attention and change to systemic injustice. Injustice has nothing to do with results based on an individual’s action, but rather it pertains to mistreatment of a person who has done nothing to earn such unfair treatment. In a just society, results and outcomes differ according to a person’s effort and talent; however, the opportunity to put forth effort and talent should be afforded to everyone.
4. Peace — Your country needs you to be the peacemaker. In a world where everyone seems to be promoting their personal brand, it would appear that those who say the most controversial things and take the boldest stand win. When everyone acts this way, we all lose. We need to be able to pick out the shared interest from another person’s thoughts rather than pick apart the words of their stance. We ought to go and make peace with those from different backgrounds and upbringing than us. Experience your city or town differently and seek to understand more than to be understood. In addition to this interaction in a city, your citizenship comes with a responsibility to promote peace between your country and other nations. War is a grave and serious thing, only to be engaged in as a last recourse. War is not an economic tool to be leveraged or a method of stamping our values upon other nations unlike us. As citizens, we need to reinforce with our politicians and leaders that war is our last resort, but support our military and even participate in training for our armed forces because an active military is one that can prevent many wars.
5. Respect — Your country needs you to especially value and protect another person’s conscience, body, and personal property by considering how you would want to be treated if you were in their situation. I believe that respect is what leads to wisdom in matters of public affairs. So many of our saddest news stories started with a failure in respect. Next time you read a shocking headline, consider what would have happened if the criminal had respect for the victim.
6. Compassion — Your country needs you to be compassionate and empathize with another person’s situation. Being a citizen puts you into a community of individuals that share a land as a common bond. Having compassion for your fellow countrymen means that you demonstrate your helpfulness to others with your time, talents, and treasures and if called upon are willing to fight to protect the freedoms we have as a community. You acknowledge our differences, but you must put country ahead of all other classifications you can give a fellow citizen. Treat your fellow countryman as you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed.
7. Intellectual Participation — Your country needs you to exercise your brain to become a wise decision maker. Democracy is only one generation away from extinction. The definition of democracy is a government by the people and for the people. When people don’t participate in critical decision making, they neglect their civic duty and rebuke their individual liberties, putting their safety at risk. To not participate is to sit and eat, never standing up to exercise and to be surprised when your cardiovascular system shuts down and kills you. If you do not participate in the system through exercising your mind with the contemplation of matters related to the government, with thorough examination of elected officials, you are ruining the system you were given through your willful neglect. That system unchecked and without participation will destruct itself and cease to guarantee liberty to you and your offspring. Your mind and your decision making are critical blood flow to the systems of government and the structure of country. Be a citizen and participate or you are simply a cancer, good for nothing but pain and whining.