In reflecting upon President Obama’s farewell speech, I was inspired to take inventory of myself and what it means to be American in 2017.
Being an American is not just an abstract concept to be proud of based on history or heritage. It is far more than a vote at the ballot box or the actions and deeds of past icons.
It is not just about standing up in resistance at the latest injustice.
To be part of our democratic society as an American requires ongoing interaction, participation, dialogue, and relationship-building and maintenance within our communities at all levels.
It is a privilege requiring continuous engagement, reassessment of priorities, critical thinking and effort.
Our current political atmosphere is largely due to complacency and an entitled, contrarian attitude. I am of the opinion that we have taken our liberty and freedom for granted. We’ve stayed comfortably asleep, and left the door wide open.
The present moment suggests that it will take an extreme to mobilize the masses to maintain a mantra of personal accountability.
This is sad.
Moving forward, my hope rests in our ability to come together as one people in moments of crisis and catastrophe. As I have learned in my own life, sometimes everything must fall apart for better things to come together.
There are infinite ways to practice being American, but here are a few simple ideas to start with today:
1.) Community connection.
Recognize all of the levels of community, but start at home. Your own family is your closest circle of community.
Start talking to those closest to you, of all ages, with a practice of sharing ideas and beliefs in an open-minded, opinion-based manner. Look for similarities, and practice agreeing to disagree.
Then take this practice out into other levels—into neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, and states. Expand this idea of community both nationally and globally.
Practice respectful, “I statement” language and learn how to agree to disagree.
No one likes to be judged for what they believe or to feel attacked. Owning your opinion while communicating allows for dialogue and debate instead of argument and conflict.
3.) Honesty and Accountability.
Be honest with yourself and others about what you feel you could have done better up until this point. Then, in the areas you have fallen short, take action.
Even making a point to pick an issue and thoughtfully, respectfully communicate your opinions to your elected officials via phone, letter, or email just once a week is a proactive, positive action.
Take inventory of what inspires you and act upon it. Make a list of everything you can think of that inspires positive feelings within you or that you feel passionate about.
Pick a few of those things and research needs or initiatives in that area.
We will never be united and find any sense of peace if we do not make a commitment to stay engaged and active in the democratic process. Of the people, by the people, for the people means that it is up to us to maintain it for ourselves.
Let’s all take a moment today and offer one small step toward a better tomorrow. Let’s offer one small step to ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. Offer one small step to present-day America and its future.
I, for one, am lacing up my shoes.
Yes I am; yes we can!
Author: Cyndy Dalton
Image: Flickr/Michael Pittman
Editor: Callie Rushton