A Non-Political Look at Political Laziness
by Michael J. Orr
Social media have given millions of Americans a new voice in the political arena, but have we really accomplished anything? Is anyone listening to you, except those who already agree with your viewpoint?
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets give many people a false veil of anonymity. False, because there is now so much personal online data that we are much less anonymous than ever before. The barrier of the screen convinces many to post things online that they would never say in public. Yes, there are those who just use the internet to practice personal mean-spiritedness. But in recent years, social media have been dominated by political discourse—assuming you consider that sharing or re-tweeting memes that agree with your point of view is really “discourse.”
The most dangerous outcome from this (aside from spreading falsehoods, divisiveness, and alienating friends) is the potential sense of accomplishment that it may bring people. There are those that believe they have actually accomplished something by sharing their viewpoint with the world. God knows I have been guilty of this, too. But this sense of accomplishment, via the propagation of national political talking points, satiates the need to actually do something. Sure, people might attend a rally with like-minded activists once in a great while, but they are missing the boat on where real change can happen in this country: in their own town or city hall.
Most small towns have monthly meetings to discuss and decide what will happen in their town and how to pay for it. Yet, despite the considerable political interest and activist proclamations of the average keyboard political advocate, in most small towns every month only the same eight-to-ten septuagenarians and two-to-three other people who have a vested interest in something on that month’s agenda show up. And even fewer actually speak before the council. So although 50 to 65 percent of those on social media get into political discourse online, less than .05 percent show up for their own town council meetings. Yet, when something that they don’t like happens—a new ordinance, a change in sales tax, etc.—people light up the local Facebook groups like it is the end of the world.
Yes, people are busy. They have jobs, kids, grandchildren and well, lives. But the one place where you can get to know the players and have your voice heard is in your own town hall. Part of the reluctance of many to attend town hall meetings is because most of them are quite boring. Town hall meetings are most often for town council members to deal with the endless stream of perfunctory unanimous votes on continuing funding for this program or that, for the routine process of running a government entity. But there is almost always a public discussion time on the agenda, and that is your opportunity to be heard. That is where you can actually move the needle on change. That is where you can get involved in projects to make your little slice of the world better.
Keyboard warriors abound, yet our own communities are neglected. Don’t let the false sense of accomplishment from your social media ranting satiate you. There is an old adage that says, “All politics are local.” Yet our own communities, unfortunately, are often at the bottom of our list of priorities. You can contact your local councilperson, senator, state representative or local newspaper to find out where and when your next local town hall meeting is scheduled. I encourage you to attend and check it out. Even more, have something to bring up that is important to you – the neighborhood crime, street lights, park issues, local taxes or anything at all that you want to discuss.
Michael J. Orr is a #1 Bestselling Author, Freelance Writer, Speaker, and Entrepreneur based in Southern Idaho. His new book, KILL the Bucket List: Start Living Your Dreams is now available. He also wrote the #1 Best Seller, BURN SCAR (under the pseudonym T.J. Tao).