Guest Column: Keeping the spirit of Independence Day alive

RBC | For most of us the last few days have been spent recuperating from the Fourth of July

Jen Hill
festivities that filled our long weekend. While the fireworks, barbecues and parties are over, there is no reason that the spirit of Independence Day should end. It’s important that as we celebrate this time we also contemplate the meaning of the holiday and how we as modern citizens can help to live out the ideals established by our nation’s founders.
Our nation was established as a representative democracy, a system in which we elect others to a multitude of positions where they are charged with the task of bringing our ideals, values and desires to the government decision making process. Every two years we ramp up the political talk and anxiously fill in our ballots. But what happens after that? Life moves on, and outside of occasionally listening to the ever less trustworthy talking heads found on the news, we rarely give much thought to the consequences of our votes. This political apathy, especially at the local level, certainly isn’t how those who built this nation envisioned our future. As Daniel Webster said, “Our destruction, if it come at all, will be from…the inattention of the people to the concerns of their government, from their carelessness and negligence.” Do you know if your representative on the town council or commission has followed through with representing your voice? How are they spending your money? What new regulations are they considering? When we neglect to stay engaged with our elected officials they often wind up with an attitude of “I know better than them.” The only way to prevent this is oftentimes easier said than done: staying involved.
I get it, it’s hard to participate when you feel like your voice won’t matter. And while I can’t promise you that President Trump is likely to take your phone call to discuss healthcare, I can tell you that locally, your voice matters. So in the spirit of the Fourth of July, the day when great men stood up and demanded representation, I challenge each of you to set some time aside and attend one local governance meeting. There are so many options; town council, school board, recreation districts, county commissioners, development authorities, the list goes on. Find an area that interests you and go check out the meeting. While the board members may be a little surprised to see you (trust me, most of these meetings are sparsely attended) they won’t mind having you there. Time and dates for these meetings can be found on the various entities websites or listed in the paper. Some groups meet during the day, and some in the evenings, but if you still can’t get to a meeting, most of these boards record them. All you have to do is ask for the recording and voila, now you are civically engaged from the comfort of your recliner.
Plato said, “The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the government is to live under the government of worse men.” Of course none of those men sound that bad during election season (well at least not the ones on my team, right?). Which is why it is so important to follow up with them and make sure that your representatives are truly representing you.