"...I see an innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls. Each of them withdrawn into himself, is almost unaware of the fate of the rest. Mankind, for him, consists in his children and his personal friends. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, they are near enough, but he does not notice them. He touches them but feels nothing. He exists in and for himself, and though he still may have a family, one can at least say that he has not got a fatherland."
~Alexis de Tocqueville. Democracy in America (1840)
In a less than one month, Americans will be heading to the voting booth to pull the lever for men who desire the highest office in the land. Several others are pursuing senate, congressional & gubernatorial seats. Times are increasingly tough for many of our fellow citizens. We are living in a season of high unemployment, a dwindling tax base, scarcity of resources, financial uncertainty, and global unrest. Passionate debates abound regarding the best ways to grow the economy and create jobs. Left & Right argue about the appropriate role of government.
Many folks don't like to get into conversations about elections and the difficult topics surrounding them. It's uncomfortable, and causes tension and divisiveness. Understandably, people tend to avoid unpleasantries. And polite company who follow proper etiquette know to refrain from certain issues.
We live in an incredible era in human history. We have unfathomable information at our disposable that previous generations could have never comprehended. In this digital world in which we live...from 24 hour cable news channels to live streaming news on your smart phone in the middle of nowhere, we experience what is referred to as 'information overload.' It can be just downright overwhelming.
However, in spite of the ability to glean a wealth of information in seconds, many Americans are perfectly content being a part of the uninformed populace. Political scientists have a term for explaining disengaged Americans--something called "privatism." Essentially, it refers the behavior of people who are most concerned about their own self-interest and their own family. The issues outside of their immediate circle are not perceived as relevant.
It's easy to forget about the problems and plight of others. But when large portions of the majority begin to feel the impact of tough times, it becomes a little more difficult to ignore.
While previously focused only on self-interest, some will begin to have a better understanding for their neighbors and communities when they themselves are suddenly thrust into the midst of adversity. It is a quintessential paradox.
For those of us who work in social services, we've always known the meaning of austerity. We know the folks who have nothing. We see the 'forgotten people' who are often ignored as the rest of society walks by.
Among the frustrating realities of politics is those who have power & money have the most access to government. Their interests are clearly heard and understood. There is quite a bit of truth in the old cliche', "The squeaky wheel gets the oil." But what about those who have no voice. They often rely on others to help their voices be heard. We also encourage them, when possible, to speak up for themselves, to advocate for their needs and rights, and point them towards self-sufficiency.
Those running for elected office should represent all of us fairly and equitably. But we don't live in a perfect world. For those of you who have disabilities, are parents or family of individuals with disabilities, and for those who work with people with disabilities, you MUST ask important questions of candidates who ask for your vote. Admittedly, it may not be the most comfortable thing to do. And we all have important things going on in our lives, often leaving us with little time to get to these kinds of issues & questions.
Fortunately, The Arc of Indiana has put together an Election Guide that did just that. Take a few moments and read the responses of those who are asking for YOUR vote! It's that easy.
And, of course, please remember to vote on Tuesday, November 6th.