Saturday, April 30, 2016

To Whom Does Citizen Owe...What?

Some Things Obvious...Some Things Not.

As often as we may, as individuals, confront and attempt to resolve the problems this question, more often than not we simply fail. 

Some things we owe to ourselves because we are simply human beings. (At least, that is the presumption I make when considering who may be reading or interacting with this blog.)

Yet, even at this fundamental level, the answers to the question are different for every living, breathing human being. It doesn't take very long, even in the solitude of our private thoughts before we come headlong into conflict. That conflict usually occurs when we arrive at that magical point where "should" and "do" collide. 

I once worked with a man who had a terrible habit of saying, to whomever might be listening:
    "Review the basics once a year. It takes about a year to review the basics."
              ~W. Clement Stone

I've always considered these to be some of the most profound words I have ever encountered. In the rush to live in today's world, with constant movement, raging emotion, and rambunctious information, assailing us at every moment, it can be difficult to concentrate on the basics--even the basics of who it is that we, individually are. Sometimes, finding out who we are at some given moment surprises, shocks, or amazes us. We can find it taking much longer, and much more concentrated time than we ever thought necessary to get to that point of "Me". Many times, we at first do not believe we have arrived because we do not recognize what we see before us. You may believe this has happened only to you; you would be grossly mistaken. 

Some folks ignore or avoid this moment at every turn. They don't care for what they see, how that feels, or what the realization means not only to them, but of them. Who would want affinity with that person? Each of us experiences this reality daily, yet believe no one could possibly share our perception of the experience itself. 

What has this to do with answering the question?

Simple. We do try to convey our best selves whenever we are called to interact with other humans. Think of those communities you exist within. Work. Family. School. PTA. Union meeting. Grocery. Bank. And, yes, voting booth. 

The simple truth is that we carry this self with us no matter where we go, or what we do. We fly forward with the gigantic hope that our best self will somehow outstrip even our limited abilities, and show up anyway. Mostly, we are disappointed in that hope. But, every rare once in a while, someone shows up that we cannot imagine being us because of the greatness of their appearance. In life, that can happen when we, almost without thought, do that which is right and not that which is convenient, or invisible, or practiced, or easy, or even best. You know, those moments when you silently hope against hope that someone else sees, notices that you. You wonder how that person might become the usual, the habitual you. 

Eventually, you recognize that this person can only become the superior you with painful, relentless practice. For many, that is a price too much to pay. They retreat, in defeat, leaving themselves only the other self which they must somehow learn to accept and accommodate. It is a constant battle that these folks will lose much more often than win.

The real truth is that this is most, if not all of us. It takes more than most of us can muster once, much less every day of our lives. Yet, we do know that there lies, deep within us, Citizen. Proven in war, and peace, our sense of that greater than ourselves rests deep in the core of our being. Americans seem to have an extra dollop of that. We are a nation of winners who have, upon occasion lost. But, those battles we have won mean more to us than life itself, if we are honest about it. Of course, some of those winning moments truly matter most. With more practice such moments could even become usual. But what purpose could compel the tough work required to be that person as a matter of habit, like breathing?

It's difficult to really atomize such a concept. Sometimes, the circumstances dictate the person. Sometimes, the person dictates the circumstance. This is the muddled world of citizen. When should someone stand up, and step out, and declare themselves to be either in favor or, or opposed to something? Many would say that the more muddled or confused, or strained the circumstance, the more likely the best of us is compelled to show up, and show off. Sadly, many more would declare that the best self must be always protected, regardless of circumstance, and become as fair weather citizens. Pretenders all. 

For citizen, as for self, it is not the easy, or the convenient, or even the imperative that compels us to the fore. Before citizen can change a nation, citizen must change citizen. Given that citizen does have a bit of a civic flavor to the terminology, the implication is that citizen is the force for change where citizen lives. Not just under the home roof, but at every point between the kitchen table and the council table at the Courthouse. Just as there are significant concerns on one end of the citizen spectrum, so are there significant concerns at the courthouse, and the Statehouse, and the Whitehouse. But, regardless of the home in question, there are questions which citizen is obligated, yes obligated to ask, and answer. Some examples:

How many people in my community went hungry yesterday? 
How many people in my community were homeless yesterday?
How many people in my community were without any money?
How many people where I live live in poverty?
How many people where I live do not/cannot access basic healthcare?
How many people in my community need, and cannot find honest, honorable, respectable work?
How many people in my town cannot read, or write?

How can I help? What is available, and what can I do about it?

I challenge you here, now. Choose the question which seems the most outrageously false to you. Get undeniable facts from the most authoritative source you possibly can. You will be stunned, flabbergasted, gobstopped. Then consider the last two questions. Remember the who that you are. Consider the you that you might be, or would wish to become. You are citizen. 

What are YOU going to do about it? Not because you must. Because you can.

I am, and remain,

The Tennessee Progressive