As Obama Works, So Must We

Joy. Elation. Excitement. Pride. Patriotism. Many have already written about the events of yesterdays inauguration, and many will write and talk further about this important moment in our history as a nation.

I want to simply say, now is the time for us, the American people, to re-engage with our democracy, and to do so in a fully committed manner. That doesn’t mean we have to spend our entire existence in the world of politics, but it does mean that each of us needs to broaden our sources of information about the world, we need to forge closer relationships with our representatives (on the local, state and federal levels), and we need to find ways to participate in our communities.

We must maintain a steady vigilance over our political leaders and make sure each and every one of them know that we stand ready to revoke our support if their behavior is self-centered or their votes cater to the wealthy at the expense of our fragile planet or our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Depending on even the best politicians good will is sort of like putting cookies on a table in front of a two-year-old and saying “don’t touch.”

We set the rules. We the people. Don’t let them forget it.

Each of us needs to be more aware of what Congress is doing on a daily or weekly basis. Have your representative’s emails and phone numbers handy. Write and call them when something concerns you. Attend town meetings. Volunteer. I know that if I added up all the time I spend at home needlessly surfing the internet, I would probably have a good 3-4 hours a week that I could use to volunteer and give something back to my community.

The challenges that America and the world face are intimidating. None of us can do everything (not even Obama). So find something you care about, whether that is education, science, the environment, children’s health, reproductive rights, the separation of church and state, etc. and do something to make the world a better place. Don’t narrow your focus to ignore all the other issues, but don’t feel you have to act on everything. Each of us must find our own way of contributing and if we try to act in a way that is against our nature, our actions will benefit noone. Just don’t confuse difficult and challenging with “against your nature”–the only way to grow as individuals, communities, nations, and as a species is to do the difficult.

I think if nothing else, becoming more informed and more aware of the world around us is imperative for our very survival as a species. But being informed doesn’t mean to passively accept information, even from sources we trust. Being informed means we take the data presented to us and use our own reasoning and analysis to understand and assess; it means we hold our sources of information–be they journalists, pundits, bloggers, or politicians–accountable for any lies and deceptions they promulgate; and it means that we always read between the lines because no one is without bias, no one is without ideology and there is no speech-act or text that is wholly innocent or objective.

We must strive for the creation of the sublime, of works and acts that are more than mere beauty, more than simply escapism. Whether through the creation of art or the creation of community; a poem or a small act of charity; we must strive to bring into existence anything that reveals ourselves to ourselves and helps us move forward as fulfilled and compassionate people. Sometimes simply smiling at a tired and over-stressed waiter or treating a Starbucks employee with integrity and respect can be a truly creative moment.

President Obama has a great many challenges ahead of him as he takes on the role of President. In many ways, however, we have the greater challenge. Nobody is holding us accountable for our actions as Americans, and yet, each and every day, we must, like President Obama, work to make the world a better place for everyone.

Yes we can.

On this day..