Our nation is in a time of great uncertainty. For many, it feels as if all they hold dear is threatened. Others fear global upheaval. Still others, thinking they had "won" with the election are facing afresh the hard realities of a broken political system. It can be downright depressing. It can make us angry. We can lose hope. We are tempted to throw our hands up and say, "we're screwed!" I am not someone who fundamentally believes the government can offer any ultimate, solid hope, in the ways the human soul needs. This colors all I think and do regarding the government and my political career. But neither should we think that the government plays no role in promoting and ensuring human flourishing through tools like justice, protection and order. Because these things are important and the government does play the primary role in these areas, I believe some of us must give ourselves to ensuring the government is healthy. And what makes a healthy government? For me, its simple: Healthy people running it.
"The Government" is not an organism (though some confuse it for a scary beast sometimes.) It's a collective body, made up of people, working together within an ordered system, ideally for the good of all our people. (You know, liberty and justice for all and such.) The problem with Washington is not "the government." The problem in Washington is not "the system." There are deep structural flaws, to be sure. But those structures were put into place by people, many to ensure their own power and self-interest.
So the task before those of us who are trying to "make a difference" in our American political system - to build a better future for our children and grandchildren - is one of human development, leadership and relationship. I'd like to offer 5 ways I think we can begin to turn the tide of political dysfunction - five things that any of us can do, no matter our position in life, access to power or money or our political views.
- Get to know an elected official personally.
- Invite them for coffee or lunch. Ask them about their story, their family, what they enjoy doing. Don't ask them about policy or politics. That can come later.
- Encourage good people you know to run for office and support them.
- Running for office is hard. Really hard. You know that dream where you're in front of a big crowd and you realize you're in your underwear? It's kinda like that. Help good people know that you'll have their back. Too many good people won't run even though they feel the pull because it doesn't seem worth it.
- Run for office yourself.
- Thinking about it? Do the research. Ask some experienced folks for advice. Count the cost. Then jump in.
- When you talk to or about elected leaders, do so with civility, respect and kindness.
- Put yourself in their shoes before you hit send, tweet, post or let that comment fly.
- Fight like hell for things you care about.
- Do NOT mistake being civil, kind and honest with being weak. We must learn the hard task of fighting for what we believe in without demeaning other human beings. It is possible. Learn how. It's easy to insult, blame and throw bombs. The hard thing is to hold fast to your convictions and fight for them without being a complete jerk.
Just pick one and start this week. Then tweet at me, Facebook tag me or comment here to let me know how it went. It's too important not to try.