Scared for Your Country? What You Can and Must Do
With crackdowns on speech and religious exercise, and brazen indictments against a past president and likely presidential nominee — by powers that previously tried to frame him for conspiring with a hostile foreign power but which have, themselves, colluded with the enemy — ordinary Americans watch helplessly as they see their republic slipping away before their eyes.
But they're not helpless. Not at all.
"What can I do?" a young relative recently asked me as we grieved the goings-on.
Plenty, I discovered on reflection. Here's just a partial list of what we concerned citizens can do to rescue and revive the republic:
- Educate yourself — which today means finding alternate sources of news and information, particularly with the odd ebb of Fox News as a reliable counterweight to the ubiquitous liberal media. (You may want to start with sites such as this.)
- Become a tireless advocate for truth, justice, and government accountability.
- Be vocal on social media and among acquaintances about your beliefs and what needs to happen.
- Back up those beliefs with solid evidence.
- Run for office.
- Support only candidates who pursue policies that uphold the Constitution, rule of law, national security, prosperity, public safety, healthy choices, and orderly society. (It's not healthy, civil or compassionate, for instance, to allow or even encourage people to destroy themselves with drugs on public sidewalks or public parks.)
- Agree on a written set of personal and family values, then act on them every day.
- Support alternatives to public education failure and indoctrination. (See American Federation for Children, EdChoice, and more.)
- Have the courage to stand up to a misguided mob pushing policies and values you know to be harmful.
- Monitor what your elected officials at every level are doing, and hold them accountable.
- Join with other people in like-minded organizations to safeguard civil society, individual freedom, and the constitutional republic (Moms For Liberty, Parents Defending Education, and more).
- Support public-interest nonprofits and law firms that protect freedom of speech, religion, and other liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights (Alliance Defending Freedom, First Liberty Institute, and more).
- Work to create and preserve election integrity (voter ID, no ballot-harvesting, no drop boxes, no mass mailings of ballots or ballot applications).
- Sign up to be a poll worker or a poll observer.
- Don't be fooled by ad hominem, unsupported, irrelevant personal attacks against political rivals ("they're a danger to democracy," etc.).
- Don't get fooled into thinking elections or the republic's future is about personalities instead of policies
"The nation needs dedicated volunteers to run the polls, and officials frequently report sometimes critical shortages of poll workers," says Jason Snead, executive director of the Honest Elections Project.
The opportunities to get involved in preserving the republic are nearly endless.
However fashionable or comforting it used to be to live above the fray, you can no longer afford the luxury. Neither can your country afford your indifference. You have no choice but to be political, perhaps for the first time in your life but certainly for the rest of your life. You must become relentless in the pursuit of your deeply held beliefs in the public square.
You know the old saw that "you only live once"? Don't believe it. Even aside from the afterlife, you already live two lives: a private life and a public life. As I write in a new ebook, YouRule, your private life is, of course, all about you, your family and friends, your occupations and avocations. But your public life is about everything and everyone else: your community, state, nation, and world; the issues you chime in on or pitch in on; the organizations and causes you choose to further; the strangers you meet, and even those you don't, in the case of the missionary you help support halfway across the globe.
There are things you simply must do in your personal life to strengthen the country you love. Here are just 10 of them:
- Take good care of yourself. Self-care and healthy lifestyles help hold down health care costs, increase self-reliance, and make the whole country stronger.
- Know what you believe. If we all did that, it would prevent national mood swings, erratic election results, and back-and-forth public policy shifts that drive businesses and foreign allies crazy. As they say, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.
- Be willing to change your beliefs if facts warrant. You can and should adhere to solid core principles, but be open-minded at the same time. Otherwise, you're chasing a parked car.
- Know how our system of government works. Your knowledge of it is the only way it can work. Know the Bill of Rights. Study the government's structure. Understand a government's responsibilities and limitations. Attend city and county meetings; follow your state Legislature online and in person if possible; observe Congress on C-SPAN.
- Keep up on the news and newsmakers. Be your own fact-checker/lie-detector. Check multiple news sources and perspectives, and make up your own mind about who's right. Tyrants and tricksters rely on your being uninformed.
- Engage others civilly. Listen to others from a place of respect and caring, even if you disagree with them. Walk away from online name-calling. Let your elected representatives know you want them to be civil with one another, and that you vote.
- Get involved in civic clubs and projects. That's the foundation of America. If you don't work to make your community and country better, who will? Look into Rotary and other civic clubs, some of which have youth affiliates.
- Volunteer for a candidate or run yourself. Freedom isn't a spectator sport. Get in the game!
- Don't follow the herd; think for yourself. Research shows that, as a crowd's size increases, its proportion of informed individuals decreases. Think about that the next time the wildebeest horde bolts past you!
- Spread love and kindness. Without them, we get nowhere. With them, we can get anywhere.
You have the rare and precious privilege to live in the freest society in history. The unique American system of self-governance makes this nation exceptional. But the price is eternal vigilance and concrete action by those in charge — meaning you.
If you feel helpless as our republic's basic principles such as equality under the law give way to an arbitrary politicization and weaponization of the government — the very definition of tyranny — don't feel that way. Because it's not true. You are anything but helpless.
Focus on what you can control — which, under our system of governance, means the government itself.
No one is helpless who can take action. You can. And you must.
Michael Ryan is a 40-year veteran of newspaper reporting and opinion writing and now is executive editor of The Lion, the national education news site of the nonprofit Herzog Foundation, as well as HeartlanderNews.com in Kansas City.