Civic engagement is key

Published 7:41 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

Do you remember the last time you attended a public meeting? Did you vote in the last local election? Do you feel as though you are knowledgeable about what our legislators are doing in Washington, D.C. or in Raleigh?

If you had a hard time answering these questions, chances are you’re not alone.

The reasons for not engaging in civics are many and varied. Perhaps you think it doesn’t affect you. Maybe you’re one of the ones who think that your voice can’t make a difference. Maybe you work constantly and simply don’t have time.

Civic engagement is nor easy, and its certainly not always convenient. With so much happening at the municipal, county, state and federal levels, trying to keep tabs can be overwhelming.

Lawyer talk and government jargon can distract from and obfuscate what is really going on. Partisan politics can be loud, frustrating and divisive. Meetings aren’t always scheduled at convenient times, and transparency isn’t always the top priority.

With so many barriers to civic engagement, it’s no wonder that so many Americans tune out when it comes to government and politics. But we should all remember that the decisions made at each level of government impact our lives on a daily basis. It impacts the types of services we receive, the condition of the infrastructure we utilize and how much we pay in taxes each year.

Simply stated, the decisions our elected officials make affect every last one of us. The worst thing that we can do as Americans is become complacent and apathetic towards our governing bodies. We might not always agree on what the government should do, but we can never allow ourselves to become passive, adopting the attitude of, “what will be will be.”

Even if you can’t attend every government meeting, or make your voice heard at every public hearing, or stay glued to C-SPAN 24/7, there are still ways to stay engaged.

Pay attention. Keep up with the news. Make a point to educate yourself on the issues, and show up every so often and make your voice heard. Send a letter to your state legislator or your congressional representative. Taking the intuitive to become informed is the first step. If you don’t speak up for yourself, no one else will.