Friday, 02 September 2011 00:00
It astonishes me to how mean-spirited we are becoming. President Obama has been criticized for taking a week’s vacation in August to spend time with his family. I have heard media pundits even criticize him for spending his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard even though past presidents, most recently Bill Clinton, have vacationed there. Even more disturbing were some Massachusetts residents holding signs indicating that he is not welcomed to vacation in their state. The level of griping about Congress, the president, the stock market and the economy is depressing, but our problems persist.
I was at a rally in Manhattan on Aug. 24 sponsored by J Street, a Jewish organization that is advocating for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is an issue of critical importance because thousands of people have died through wars, suicide bombings and terror attacks that are directly or indirectly related to this conflict. Furthermore, many will continue to die until the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian territories and the U.S. find the political will to resolve this conflict. Yet there were about 75 participants at the rally. There were some speeches and the organizers took petitions to the offices of our New York senators. It was a great example of concerned citizenship but very few people on the street showed any interest as they walked heads down to their destinations. I attended college in the early 1970s and the college campus during that era was a hotbed of political activism. There were speeches, demonstrations, rallies, sit-ins by ordinary citizens who voiced their opinions about the Vietnam War, fought for civil rights and demanded equal rights for women. These activities helped to bring about real change and we became a more just society. Except for a few progressive groups and the Tea Party, there is very little activism today, especially on college campuses. During the midterm elections only one of nine people in the 18-25 age range even bothered to vote. This is one of the reasons why we have such a dysfunctional Congress; low voter turnout is enabling politicians to get elected who are more concerned about ideology than acting in the best interest of the country.
The writers of the constitution and some subsequent amendments gave us a beautiful gift. Voters all have an equal say in elections. The vote of the custodian who cleans Donald Trump’s office carries the same weight as the vote of his boss. An 18-year-old’s vote carries the same weight as his professors who have authored many books. Therefore, because the middle class far outnumber the wealthy, corporate leaders and political powerbrokers, they can have any type of government that they want. All they need to do is become involved and well-informed citizens. Unfortunately, political pundits can lie with impunity; there is nothing in our political system to ensure accurate news and honesty. Therefore, it is important to watch balanced news programs rather than talk shows that serve as propaganda for a political party. PBS news programs give a good balanced account of both sides of an issue. Involved citizens should also be aware of rallies, town meetings and any forum where there is intelligent political discourse. If we need additional tax revenue to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, invest in alternative sources of energy and create jobs to jumpstart our economy, we need to vote for political leaders who will deliver and put our country first.
Our youth are the greatest stakeholders of this country’s future. Leading economists have said that the children of our current dwindling middle class will have a lower standard of living than their parents. The price of housing, college education, insurance and energy, has forced many in the millennial generation to live longer with their parents than previous generations. This is the generation with the most to lose. Fortunately, they have power in numbers and they can dictate their future if they become greater stakeholders in it. All the moaning and complaining is not going to change this country, but being an activist and voting for the right people can. We were once the land of opportunity; let’s work at restoring the American Dream for all.
Lou Sabatini, Adjunct Professor, Hofstra University