Civic Diary 7/9/2016

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

What a hell of a week.  Philando Castile and Alton Sterling shot by police.  Police shot by an ex-military sniper in Dallas.  I won’t lie, it’s left me a bit numb.

But here I am writing, because this is part of my project to be better, and we could all use being better.

With the shootings first of all, there’s really two parts – the first is excessive use of police force against minorities, which is clearly an issue.  The second is both access to guns and apparently a man who should have been caught earlier.  In short, police force, gun control, and possibly mental health.  Issues I’ve covered before, hell have been covered before and we haven’t done a lot about them.

Which really brings me to the whole point of this civic exercise – what the hell do we do?

I think people feel helpless.  Want to know why there are thousands at #BlackLivesMatter protests?  People know they can do something that way.  The evil flipside is our political process, where desperate people are exploited by con-man politicians to vote against their own interests.

The loss of real civic engagement for much of the country has left us truly helpless and vulnerable.  We’re not asking what we can do for our community, state, country.  We’re not staying truly informed.  We’re small atomistic units bouncing around and bouncing off each other, but not connecting.  We may even sever connects because some bile-spewing media figure told us to hate some group of people.

I guess I see it this way.

  1. Be informed.  Really informed.  Know what’s going on, ask questions.
  2. Connect with others.  Any way you can – and connect with people different than you (though you have to start with people like you).
  3. Do stuff.  Find ways to change the world.  Nothing’s too small – I can’t claim to be a person making revolutionary changes (well, not yet, but I have a few decades left in me).

These are not an optional part of citizenship.

Be informed.  Reach Out.  Be active.

Now as for my own efforts:

  1. I’ve reached out to a local political group’s lead and am going to a meetup run by another on Monday.  Once again I’m finding people involved in political groups aren’t too hot at recruiting and expect you to reach out.
  2. More and more since Brexit I’m shifting my news-reading approach to stay better informed as noted before.  It’s changed a lot of things for me – but you can overdo it and obsessively check news all the time.  I need to learn to be selective.
  3. I’m evaluating some of my other community involvements due to changes in groups I know and work with.  Sometimes people don’t need your help or change their missions, which leads me to ask what I’m supposed to do.
  4. Identity is really key to understanding civic engagement – knowing what you can and should do is part of knowing who you are.  Which sounds corny but I’ll try to write more later.

And needless to say I need to get off my butt and write my reps on both violence reduction and gun regulation.  The latter, again.

– Steve