The President-Elect is about to be inaugurated as this edition of the paper is distributed.
Every Presidential Inauguration is historic and unique. Yet, this particular one is surely more contentious, more anxiety-provoking, and more frightening for many.
On Jan. 20, 2017, there will be a peaceful transfer of power. There will be no coup d’etat, no armed conflict, or violent uprising.
There may be massive and unprecedented protests.
Yet, still, the President-Elect, as unpopular as he may be, will assume office on that day.
Despite allegations and evidence of Russian interference in the campaign, a large gap between popular and electoral votes, and growing concern about the stability and discernment of the President-Elect, the inauguration will take place. The democratic mechanism protecting the electoral college win will ensure that the transfer of power happens.
What, then, are concerned citizens to do following Inauguration Day?
Some of us have heard that we should be supportive of the President, despite his already egregious, and often un-democratic, policies, mindset, and attitude.
On Jan. 12, 2017, the reputable and long-standing nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, Human Rights Watch, made the historic determination that the President-Elect of the United States is himself a threat to human rights by fostering bigotry and discrimination.
Surely, concerned citizens need to do more than merely support the President.
In a democracy such as ours, there is a simple antidote to passive complicity. We need to be democratic citizens.
What does it mean to be a citizen in a democracy?
Citizens do not simply vote, and then become silent and complicit.
The word democracy comes from the Greek words demos (people) and kratos (power).
Citizens in a democracy, by the definition of the word democracy itself, have power.
We are all members of a body politic.
As citizens, we bring unique talents and perspectives to civic community.
Our power is individual, distinct, and integral to the common good.
We elect the public officials that best represent our values. Yet, the power of a citizen does not end in the voting booth.
Although it may seem intuitive, that each and every American citizen realizes that their power matters, this is not always the case.
It is not always obvious that patriotism does not equal complicity and subordination.
Patriotism is defined as vigorous support for one’s country.
If we want to vigorously support our country, that means we ought to vigorously understand and uphold the power of what it means to be a citizen in a democratic country.
That is, no matter who is President, or in a cabinet position, or in any other elected position, we have a right to voice our opinions and concerns.
The minute we become subordinate, and silence our opinions, we shrink the very power and strength of a democracy.
Our country was built on the idea that a multitude of voices and factions need to be heard, consistently and loudly.
Those voices will surely disagree and contradict one another at times. Peace does not mean that everyone will always share the same ideas about policy, diplomacy, values, and other political concepts.
Campaigns and elections are not an allotted time-frame for political discussion, opinions, and activism. We are democratic citizens every day of the year, every year.
Our personal opinions, our voices, our search for facts, truth, and justice make us patriotic citizens. These objectives may either contradict or support the objectives or mindset of a President, at any given time.
Nevertheless, citizenry does not end with either support or contradiction.
This kind of patriotism is what a democracy needs. This is what fosters freedom, liberty, inalienable rights set forth in our Constitution, rule of law and all of the guarantees of a thriving, progressive democracy.
Otherwise, we only stand by to witness the erosion of the core principles of a participatory democracy.
We are indebted to the service of our military personnel, police forces, firefighters, and others risking so much to keep our citizens and neighborhoods safe.
Moreover, journalists, political activists, and educators are some of the forefront warriors of our democracy. They ensure that democracy does not slip into authoritarianism or plutocracy, that fact is not traded for fiction, and that progress is not shunned.
Newspapers such as the New York Times will continue to fact-find, research, investigate, and report.
Local papers, such as this one, will continue to allow for the free exchange of ideas.
In his last article, Blank Slate journalist, professor, and political activist, Michael D’Innocenzo recognized my ideas and writing.
I am filled with gratitude and respect for Michael D’Innocenzo. This is a wonderful aspect of civic community; inspiration and sharing of ideas come not only from colleagues, but from all community members who care deeply about democracy.
This is what integrity looks like; it is the willingness to communicate and actively pursue ideals while sincerely acknowledging the contributions of others that are also pursing common goals, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, occupation, etc.
Besides national and local papers, other media outlets, despite repetitive denigration by the incoming President, will courageously continue their job. Further, political activists will be brave and will protest, organize, and collaborate. Educators will teach and challenge our younger generations of citizens.
Yet, each and every citizen has power, as well. We have the power to be engaged, to learn, to educate ourselves, to disagree, to write, vote, organize, and speak loudly. This makes us patriots.
There is nothing more supportive and healthier for a thriving democracy than active citizenry. While we may want our nation to seem more united, less divisive, less argumentative, and more agreeable, we cannot succumb to the false notion that complicity and silence make us patriots.
Whether we are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green or non-party affiliated, we are all citizens first.
We can be civil, empathetic, humane, loving, and compassionate to all of our fellow citizens without giving up the freedom to be active, powerful citizens.
As American citizens we are incredibly fortunate to live in a country where we are afforded the constitutional right to be a democratic citizen. We are allowed to be passionate, caring, thoughtful, engaged, and educated.
Following the Inauguration, let us be citizens.
Speak loudly or softly, but speak. Listen attentively and compassionately. Think independently. Act both mindfully and passionately. Be proud and be concerned.
Let our voices be heard, and let freedom ring. Democracy will march on.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”