In 1980, I was a mere 26 years old, when Ronald Regan and Jimmy Carter were running for President. During the election, the County Extension Leader called me into his office and reported that there had been a complaint about a political bumper sticker on the car I was driving. I had a good idea who made the complaint and to say I was mad is an understatement. After seeking the advice of a lawyer friend, with a chuckle, he said the best thing to do is to remove the bumper sticker. One reason I was angry was that the car was not in my name, but because I drove it, the sticker had to come off. And at the same time, my accuser was flaunting his local political activities, and no one said a word. Since that time, I have had numerous discussions about the need to be silent on politics, faith, and other controversial topics so not to offend people. During the past 40 employed years I did my best to display politically correct behavior because I love my community and never wanted to be disrespectful to anyone. However, even though it’s important to consider other opinions, being silent in this present political environment could generate more problems than good. In addition, Social Media is often an incubator for folks who are disillusioned with local government, Washington, and the national media. Voicing concerns and outrage on Facebook does not solve problems, rather it only stirs up anxiety and anger. So, it was no coincidence that I read an article about ways to make a difference in the political arena regardless of one’s political preference. The following are a few simple suggestions from the report. First get to know your local legislators and politicians. Communicate with them if you have concerns about relevant issues. Just don’t stew and complain, always make a respectful contact. Also, identify an issue and pursue it. Cezar McKnight presented a very good program recently at Rotary on the shape of South Carolina’s education’s system. It was eye opening and an issue we all can embrace for the sake of youth and state. Next, attend town council, county council and other community meetings to get the real story of what’s happening instead of listening to hear-say. Be vocal locally, but also be vocal to your national leaders. Senators and Congressmen are supposed to be representing their constituents. Make them accountable. Most importantly, educate yourself about what is going on locally, in the state, and on the national scene. Read or listen to reliable news and do not depend on friends or facebook to keep you informed. When you are committed to a cause, volunteer in your community to work during an election or for a campaign. Always vote your conscience and never allow others to tell you how to cast your ballot. Make a difference in this community by treating others with respect and kindness. And as Jesus said, “love your enemies.”
The first time I toured the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, I read and wrote down a quote by Martin Niemoller because it spoke of the consequences of people doing nothing. Mr. Niemoller was a prominent Lutheran pastor who spent seven years in concentration camps because of his opposition to Hitler. At first Niemoller held anti-Semitic opinions and welcomed the Third Reich. It was later; however, he came to see the Nazi State as a dictatorship and opposed them. Like Mr. Niemoller, many of us sit around complaining about the state of the county or the country but choose not to get involved. Repeatedly we do nothing more than vote or, some just gripe but never vote. It is my hope that citizens of this great Country will recognize the serious issues we face before it’s too late and we experience Mr. Niemoller’s quote. “First they came for the Socialist and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionist and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
In 1980 it was a bumper sticker, in 2019, it could be our future. Find your own limb to climb out on, you never know what good you might do.
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