The concept of civic virtue was one of great importance in the lives of early Americans. Indeed, it was one of the founding ideologies of the United States as a nation in 1776.
Americans had a real sense of community; they saw the holding of office as a noble and revered position. People knew the issues facing the country and could discuss them openly.
Today, this tradition is long gone. Community is gone. The image of the immoral politician, sitting in his cushy Washington, D.C. office, taking bribes and screwing naÃ¯ve interns, is how people view their leaders. Many don’t even know who the secretary of state is, let alone how he’s figuring into politics today.
While America has lost something, it’s never too late to get it back.
Is it too much to ask people to be part of their community? We complain endlessly about how long it takes to fill in a pothole, and no one even considers filling the pothole himself. “That’s for the county to do; that’s why I pay taxes,” people scream. But why is that? Why can’t all the people on the block pitch in, buy the supplies and fill the hole?
It is this sense of being part of a community that we lack. You’re not filling it in because the county won’t, but because it would benefit the community as a whole. This is a central idea of civic virtue: To do something not because someone else won’t, but doing it to benefit your neighbors and yourself.
If people don’t like the politicians in office, why do they keep electing them? Why just Democrats and Republicans? Why, when we see homemade campaign signs along the side of the road, do we think things like, “He’ll never win” or “What a rube”?
We are too used to flashy, professional signs and TV ads featuring big-name candidates — candidates supported by state and even national parties. We figure the local independent can’t win because elections are too expensive. Hell, to even consider running for the U.S. Senate, you better have a couple million bucks under your belt.
But why does it have to be this way? You shouldn’t vote for the “lesser of two evils.” When you vote for a third party candidate, despite what some people say, you aren’t “throwing your vote away.” You’re voting for whom you want to win and, more than likely, whom should really represent you.
If everyone did this, campaigns would cost less, competition for offices would be greater, there would be better political parties and the victors in campaigns would be the people who would serve the people honestly and reverently, not the Democrat or Republican for whom you simply settle.
And for God’s sake, people, read a newspaper. Or at least watch the news for a half an hour. If you don’t know why Curious George wants to turn Iraq into a parking lot, and are just waving the flag and supporting him blindly, then learn what’s going on. Being knowledgeable is the first step to implementing the aforementioned changes.
Of course, this is not the end-all for how to change things. But, I do believe that with a little practice and perhaps more than a few prayers, we can regain our lost civic virtue.
Joe Roma is a senior majoring in political firstname.lastname@example.org