“It’s easy to be cynical, but it’s time to stop. Now is the time to accept the responsibility of citizenship.” Doug Hughes
Today, Ruskin postal worker Doug Hughes was indicted on six federal charges, including two felonies and four misdemeanors for an act of civil disobedience that involved landing his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn. While his method may be controversial, as well as illegal, his goals were clear and articulately expressed in his recent editorial to the Washington Post, excerpted below.
“There is no silver bullet solution to the corruption in Washington and many state capitols. The problem is complex, but the solution begins with principles Americans share: We want to live in a 21st-century democracy where everyone has a right to know who is influencing our government, everyone has a voice, everyone participates, everyone plays by the same set of commonsense rules and everyone is held accountable if they break faith with those rules.
“These are not my ideas, but I heartily support them. These principles represent the values behind the proposals described in a concise document called the Unity Statement of Principles endorsed by 152 organizations representing millions of Americans. The media sometimes act as though this movement doesn’t exist, but it’s getting harder to ignore, as all the evidence above suggests.
“It’s easy to be cynical, but it’s time to stop. Now is the time to accept the responsibility of citizenship. We the people prevailed over monarchs and robber barons, bled in battles at home and abroad and have kept expanding the rights assured to those history left behind. Each generation recognizes in some way that democracy is not a destination arrived at two centuries ago, but a choice we make by engaging, paying attention, making our voices heard and voting.”
Hughes reference to “21st-century democracy”, where “everyone has a voice, everyone participates”, is an important one. On June 6, we’ll be joining in with thousands of individuals and organizations around the country in the National Day of Civic Hacking, here in Tampa organized as Code for Hillsborough. National Day of Civic Hacking is an opportunity for residents, community groups, and government to collaborate to make their communities stronger. This year’s theme is “Principles for 21st Century Government,” which, like the Unity Statement of Principles, also calls on government to facilitate participation by everyone. It’s not as dramatic an action as Hughes’ effort, but it’s an important opportunity to get outside our cynicism and meet on the common ground of our shared community, with government and citizens, in the service of a greater good.
In Soul of Citizen, Paul Loeb writes, “Cynical resignation salves the pain of unrealized hope. If we convince ourselves that little can change, we don’t have to risk acting on our dreams. If we never fight for what we believe in and aspire to, we’ll never be disappointed. We can challenge destructive or duplicitous leaders with contrary information and counter-examples, stories about how the powers that be have misled us. But what can possibly challenge an all-encompassing worldview that, in the guise of sophistication, promotes the bleakest possible perspective on the human condition–the notion that our world has become so irredeemably corrupt, that whatever we do, we cannot change this?”
An antidote to what Loeb calls “impotent “realism””, he says, is ” a clear-eyed idealism, which recognizes that these are bad times but refuses to accept that the bad times are inevitable.” It can take courage to stop being cynical, and to start taking action as a responsible citizen. But you don’t need a gyrocopter to make a difference – you just need your voice, and to reengage as an active member of the community.