It’s been a year since a mob of enraged Americans stormed the United States Capitol. What’s happened since may be even more shocking: The attack accentuated our country’s political fissures instead of starting to heal them.
The nation, in fact, still seems to be in some kind of weird shock and denial. Half of the country remains baffled by the riot and the other half desperately is trying to reframe what happened as less than it really was.
Contrast this to the feeling most Americans had on Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the deadly coordinated jet attacks by foreign terrorists that killed almost 3,000 people and wounded 25,000. On that day and those that followed, Americans pulled together, united against terrorism.
But in the year since the riot, Americans haven’t pulled together against threats posed by domestic terrorists. In the past, they rallied around troops and against foreign enemies, but not these days around democracy. It’s sad. It’s scary.
Our communities and nation need to heal and get stronger. Americans — Republicans, Democrats, independents and the millions who don’t seem to care about politics — have to start caring about strengthening the foundations of our country, lest we lose what too many have died for.
After a year of watching chattering politicians, it’s clear America can’t leave the healing to them. Rather, we all need to take charge in our own special way. Just as you can earn more money by saving early and taking advantage of compounded interest, Americans of all stripes need to start investing their time and energy in promoting democracy.
Think of the compounded impact to democracy if everyone started getting more involved, just as the whole country rallied during the last great global threat to democracy, World War II. Back then, Americans invested by buying war bonds, saving scrap steel and rationing for the war effort. As American men fought in foreign lands, women joined the workforce to build the planes, tanks and materiel needed to fuel the war machine.
In other words, people got involved. We need that now in our communities. The combined impact of lots of individual actions can turn around the split in our society.
Imagine an America where people get off the couch, turn off the TV and engage more by working and talking with neighbors. They can build understanding and their communities by working in gardens, sharing books, talking sports, starting book clubs, sharing recipes and teaching children how to work together.
Imagine the impact of increasing volunteerism across the land so Americans interact more at food banks, libraries, churches, hospitals, schools, local parks and more. They can pick up trash along roads and beaches, adopt a pet, donate a meal to a shift of firefighters, recycle oyster shells from a neighborhood roast, help someone fix their home or get involved in any of hundreds of ways to make a real difference in the quality of local life.
And certainly, Americans can do things to promote civic engagement by more people getting involved in the often maddening work of oiling the wheels of democracy. First and foremost, all Americans of voting age need to get to the polls and vote. Others who want to do more can run for office, donate to candidates, support advocacy organizations that promote positions they support, share opinions in newspaper and media outlets and promote community civility. They can demand that Americans in the governing class set aside bickering and make real reforms to remove hurdles to participating in elections and making it easier to vote and get involved in the fundamentals of our democracy.
Let’s get off our behinds. Let’s get out of our comfort zones and the blue screens of televisions and smartphones.
Just think of the positive changes to strengthen the country from a billion extra hours of community service. But everyone has to do their part. Let’s get to work, America.
Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org.