Speak Up: Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport

I am one of those parents you see at the polls with their kid on election day. I have often taken my daughter with me to vote. I have brought her to visit a Congressman’s office. I have included her in my run for the Board of Education. I have let her read my letters to the editor. I have had her with me at a Freeholder’s meeting as we protested the closure of her pool.

It may seem silly to some people, to involve a 9 year old in events like this. How much, really, can she grasp of what’s going on? Someone said to me, “None of it will probably make a difference, so why bother?”

Why bother?

I bother so my daughter sees me participate in the most valuable of rights in America–the right to vote.

I bother so my daughter sees that our duty as citizens does not end in the voting booth, but requires us to hold those elected accountable, and remind them they serve us, we the people.

I bother so my daughter sees an average, every day woman running for office.

I bother so that my daughter sees how to use the freedom of the press to use her freedom of speech.

I bother so my daughter sees her mother standing up and speaking out in front of those in power.

I bother so that when her turn comes, she will remember. And she will speak out. And she will stand up. And she will teach her children to do the same.

I bother because democracy is not a spectator sport. I cannot ask others to fight for what I value while I sit back in silence.

So, yes, maybe my single voice won’t make a difference. But, sometimes, my voice, and your voice, and that person’s voice, and that one’s…sometimes all of our voices together, can make that difference.

And that is a wonderful lesson in democracy to teach my daughter.

Happy 4th of July 2019! Politicians and Patriotism

Leading up to this 4th of July, I have been involved in trying to save the pool where my daughter swims. In the course of that journey, we have spoken with all sorts of politicians–County Freeholders, State Assemblymen, and our federal Congressman.

I think it is amazing that we live in a country where we have access to our government officials. Too many people don’t take advantage of that openness to let officials know what they want, what issues are important to them.

We vote in our representatives, but our duty as citizens doesn’t end there. We should tell them what they are doing we like, and what we don’t like. If they are unapproachable in person in their offices, go to public meetings or call or email the offices. People think of doing this when the official is the opposite party from them, but it is perhaps as important to hold the official you voted for to his or her promises. Letters to the editor can also gain a politician’s attention, as they have people who check the media every day.

Democracy is not a passive form of government. We all must not only vote, but pay attention to what the politicians are doing once they are in office. Because (shocker!) some tell us what we want to hear to get elected, and then do the opposite once in power. If they break their promises, we need to let them know, and vote them out if needed.

The thought of speaking to a county or state or federal representative intimidates a lot of people. It’s understandable. We often have to meet them on their terms in their centers of power. But guess what? They are just people, no better than you and me. And guess what else? They work for us. If they don’t work to make things better for us, we can fire them at the ballot box.

So this 4th of July, I am thankful for living in a country where I can make my voice heard. I hope you all speak up and stand up for what you believe in, and remind our elected officials who their bosses really are.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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