Citizen responsibility, education, participation

“We have an opening in this crisis for a deep transformation in American politics…But it requires people — this is the hard part — to get out of their sort of passive resignation…and engage among themselves in a much more serious role as citizens…to force the changing values of the system.” William Grieder being interviewed by Bill Moyers, July 24, 2008

“It must be laid down as a primary position and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government owes not only a proportion of his property, but even his personal service to the defense of it.”   George Washington

Speaking Out Is at the Heart of Being a Citizen

The American Public’s Shocking Lack of Policy Knowledge is a Threat to Progress and Democracy

The Delu­sional Is No Longer Mar­ginal by Bill Moy­ers, pub­lished as “There Is No Tomorrow” By Bill Moy­ers in the Jan­u­ary 30, 2005 Star­Tri­bune, Min­neapo­lis  -  One of the biggest changes in pol­i­tics in my life­time is that the delu­sional is no longer mar­ginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power… For the first time in our his­tory, ide­ol­ogy and the­ol­ogy hold a monop­oly of power in Wash­ing­ton. The­ol­ogy asserts propo­si­tions that can­not be proven true; ide­o­logues hold stoutly to a world­view despite being con­tra­dicted by what is gen­er­ally accepted as reality.……What has hap­pened to our moral imag­i­na­tion?  The news is not good these days. I can tell you that as a jour­nal­ist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free — free to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the anti­dote to despair, the cure for cyn­i­cism… the capac­ity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does.

A Fearful Price By Bob Herbert, Op-Ed Colum­nist, New York Times, Decem­ber 8, 2009 …The idea that fewer than 1 per­cent of Amer­i­cans are being called on to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and that we’re send­ing them into com­bat again and again and again — for three tours, four tours, five tours, six tours — is obscene. All decent peo­ple should object…the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Amer­i­cans have no desire at all to share in the sac­ri­fices that the ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies are mak­ing. Most Amer­i­cans do not want to serve in the wars, do not want to give up their pre­cious time to do vol­un­teer work that would aid the nation’s war­riors and their fam­i­lies, do not even want to fork over the taxes that are needed to pay for the wars…The rea­son it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to con­tinue fight­ing year after year after year, is because so few Amer­i­cans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fight­ing in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II com­bined. If vot­ers had to choose right now between insti­tut­ing a draft or exit­ing Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two coun­tries in a heartbeat…

Turning a Blind Eye by Chris Hedges

Three R’s and a Why by Andrea Batista Schlesinger, The Nation, September 15, 2009…my investigation into the relationship between inquiry and democracy took me to San Francisco’s Exploratorium…an environment where people can figure out how things work…“nurture their curiosity about the world around them.” What if we encouraged our citizens to approach democracy just as the students at the Exploratorium approach science? Like science, democracy is a messy business. We try one hypothesis and it doesn’t work, so we try another. It’s through the exploration of democracy that we can uncover its properties and understand our relationship to it. The Civic Function of Schools…the public school system should prepare citizens for democracy…why our public school system was founded in the first place. …Thomas Jefferson, however, who later made an explicit case for creating a public school system, from the early grades through university, and for that public school system to function with a civic purpose in mind. At his March 4, 1801, inaugural address, Jefferson stated that the principles of justice, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and the “anchor of peace” should be “the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust.” Since the early times of our nation, the question wasn’t if the public schools should prepare effective citizens…the study of American government in the schools and colleges is the last subject to receive adequate attention?” This “practical education in our duties and responsibilities as citizens” is civics. History is the study of that which has happened. Civics prepares each and every one of us to make our own history, by giving us the skills to navigate our democracy… …abysmal performance of American children on these civics exams tells us that we are failing to educate our children about their critical role as citizens…Our young people’s civic ignorance is a long-term threat…

Getting to Crazy by Paul Krugman , The New York Times,  July 15, 2011  - …A number of commentators seem shocked at how unreasonable Republicans are being. “Has the G.O.P. gone insane?” they ask. Why, yes, it has. But this isn’t something that just happened, it’s the culmination of a process that has been going on for decades. Anyone surprised by the extremism and irresponsibility now on display either hasn’t been paying attention, or has been deliberately turning a blind eye. And may I say to those suddenly agonizing over the mental health of one of our two major parties: People like you bear some responsibility for that party’s current state.

The spoiled-brat American electorate by Eugene Robinson Washington Post, September 3, 2010

Was the 2004 Election Stolen? by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Save America: Restore the draft By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, November 29, 2013 At this time of Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for the U.S. military — not just for the usual reason that it protects us from our foes but also because it has the potential to save us from ourselves. As I make my rounds each day in the capital, chronicling our leaders’ plentiful foibles, failings, screw-ups, inanities, outrages and overall dysfunction, I’m often asked if there’s anything that could clean up the mess… there’s no silver bullet. There are many possibilities — campaign spending limits, term limits, nonpartisan primaries, nonpartisan redistricting, a third party — but most aren’t politically or legally feasible…But one change, over time, could reverse the problems that have built up over the past few decades: We should mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. The idea is radical, unlikely and impractical — but it just might work…A Congressional Quarterly count of the current Congress finds that just 86 of the 435 members of the House are veterans, as are only 17 of 100 senators, which puts the overall rate at 19 percent…It’s no coincidence that this same period has seen the gradual collapse of our ability to govern ourselves: a loss of control over the nation’s debt, legislative stalemate and a disabling partisanship. It’s no coincidence, either, that Americans’ approval of Congress has dropped to just 9 percent, the lowest since Gallup began asking the question 39 years ago. Because so few serving in politics have worn their country’s uniform, they have collectively forgotten how to put country before party and self-interest. They have forgotten a “cause greater than self,” and they have lost the knowledge of how to make compromises for the good of the country. Without a history of sacrifice and service, they’ve turned politics into war. There’s no mass movement for mandatory service, but the idea has gained a diverse group of supporters, including retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y). Gun-rights groups would cheer an armed citizenry, and an article published by the libertarian Cato Institute argued that compulsory service “can be a pillar of fre edom.”The costs would be huge. But so would the benefits: overcoming growing social inequality without redistributing wealth; making future leaders, unlike today’s “chicken hawks,” disinclined to send troops into combat without good reason; putting young Americans to work and giving them job and technology skills; and, above all, giving these young Americans a shared sense of patriotism and service to the country. It would take some time, but this new generation of Americans, once again asking what they can do for their country, would undo much of the damage today’s crop of self-interested leaders is doing to our politics.

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