There is a great line in the Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, when James T. Kirk explains to a junior officer that, “You have to understand why things work on a starship.” I’m not too much of a snob to admit that I used that analogy myself when I have served on various boards or committees; it is just as true on earth as it is in space.
Each and every day, be it in letters to the editor, Twitter, Facebook (sigh . . .) factory break rooms, bus stops, diners or any of a thousand one other places in this country, someone will expound on what is wrong with the government, and what they would do, if they were “in charge.”
If you were to suggest to most of these potential problem solvers that there is an excellent way to not only find out about how government is run, but also perhaps have some influence, they will begin backing away.
“Some of us have jobs to do,” will be the eventual reply of many, as if implying that only the dangerously underemployed would seek out such opportunities, which is now, as it has always been, utter and complete bilge.
Most of the folks I have known who have thrown themselves into the public arena, either as candidates for public office or as volunteering to serve on committees have also had work and family responsibilities.
True, one can run for office (I have myself, losing three times - earning a mandate from the people), but there are other, just as exciting ways to not only learn about government, but to have an influence in your own community.
Most cities have opportunities for citizens to volunteer to serve on various committees which advise their various city councils. Speaking as someone who spent several years on Fayetteville’s Telecommunications Board, I can tell you that this is an extremely valuable service to the community - plus, you learn a great deal.
There are all sorts of volunteer opportunities available to just about anyone.
If not government, then on bodies which also serve the public interest. Perhaps you are interested in the issue of free speech? Many public access organizations actively seek new board members, as do literacy councils, or other non-profits. Becoming involved with such groups, even if only for a short time, can provide invaluable experience, and can dispel many of the myths which so many enjoy spreading.
And, of course, you help your community. It’s sort of a win-win situation, all around.
And then, should you still want to write letters about the evils of government, at least you’ll have some solid frames of reference to draw back on, instead of the same talking points passed from hand-to-hand.
Quote of the Day
I think crime pays. The hours are good, you meet a lot of interesting people, you travel a lot. - Woody Allen, “Take the Money and Run” (1969)