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Posts Tagged ‘Citizen’

I just got in from a night out and found my roommates tuned into the most recent episode of Gossip Girl. It could be worse, I tell myself…they could be watching network news.

On my subway ride home I sat across from two black men.  One young, in a smart, slick suit and the other older sporting a worn T-shirt, paint stained jeans and a baseball cap.  I eavesdropped, as New Yorkers are prone to do amidst so many converging life stories.  They were discussing Brown vs. The Board of Education but the finer points were lost amidst the background cacophony of subway noise.  The conversation turned to the economy and I hopped off.

Heading out to 125th St. I bought a copy of “The Final Call” for a dollar from a young, sharply dressed man (I gave him two— that CAN’T be a fun job) and pondered for a moment it’s front page article: “The United States Draft: Will you answer the call?” by the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan. An interesting civic dilemma, no doubt.

125th is empty tonight where I had half expected to see a sidewalk filled with congregation members from our local Pentecostal church. It’s not unusual on warm summer nights to turn the corner and be waist deep in a Southern style revival with its insistent demand to be heard above the din of the city. Tonight my companions on the walk home are tattered copies of the day’s newspapers and the odd Styrofoam cup, leaving a distinct lack of saving grace hanging in the air.

This is a day in America.  Honest, hardworking people, all of them. Some just need a break from their over stimulated media rich lives, a little peace and quiet or simple entertainment. Others are just looking for a dose of human contact, a genuine conversation or debate about the broad strokes of America as they pertain to their lives. A small sampling?  No doubt.  Indicative of the whole?  Not at all.  A snapshot of America?  To be sure.

It occurs to me as I grab a glass of water back in my apartment, this is the conflict in America in so many ways.   The media is there, two faced and double edged.  News and entertainment mixed until gray then blended with ads pushing Dunkin’ Donuts “Egg-white Flat breads,” and drugs for diseases you didn’t even know existed but now fear you may have.

This is life in America— a life spent sifting daily through the noise and sorting out the devils in the details of everyday life. We walk a tenuous line between an honest day’s work, little luxuries, relationships, and our nagging civic commitment. We bring with us the myriad passions and distractions that define who we are, who we have been, and who we aspire to be.

Who DO we aspire to be? Somewhere between book reading binges, reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a healthy dose of the Blues, I recognize my own failings at asking this question. It can be tough to stop and ask yourself what you believe, why, and how to act on it. But do so we must. We must stand up and accept the responsibility of American Citizenship.

This is a great country, with great people, but only insofar as we bother to BE great people and work to MAKE a great nation.  America is NOT great because of the officials we elect and the agencies our government builds (certainly they help…sometimes).  It is great by virtue of the hard work of US, the unsung masses. It is strong thanks to the personal struggle we put into our lives and communities; this renews our nation every day, this turns the gears of American progress and prosperity.

It is my hope as this blog moves forward that regardless of our failures and shortcomings as people (and perhaps as writers!) we will succeed in showing the importance of people finding their own democratic voice and USING it.  In a world of a million voices spewing the profane and the sacred, the enlightened and idiotic, the cruel and the compassionate…sometimes you have to talk LOUD.

To raise one another by the quality of our ideas and passion of our commitment is part of what it means to be an American and it necessitates that we raise our voice.

Because we do not live alone in a vacuum, quarantined from the actions of others; we live with families and friends, in communities and cities and states which united form this one nation, this America.  Because to remain silent is to surrender your voice to someone else, is to open the door to an insidious apathy that would steal the very spirit of America from your lips.  Because we do not need to, nor do we wish to “lead lives of quiet desperation”; but would rather be bold in our pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.  Because the first step is to say “I Will” and because sometimes “Talking LOUD is the ONLY way.”

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