We must all understand and understand deeply that the soul of a people may be likened to the keyboard of a great church organ: heavenly music may flow out of it, or the man at the keyboard may be a demon, an inept, bigoted, narcissistic con man as was Hitler.
However, when society is heavily influenced by its civic, social, and charitable groups, democracy’s precarious but still hopeful position is preserved, its music a metaphor for an extraordinary capacity to marshal its collective good for the benefit of its citizenry.
By staying engaged in civic activities, you help define the basis for harmony among the mosaic of cultures that make up our country, which in turn helps define the common interests and goals of mankind.
Civic participation and civic achievement brings you to the honor of truly being called a Good Citizen. You are doing exactly what the dying Tom Hanks character asked Private Ryan in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” to do when he said, “James, earn this; earn it.”
One visit to Normandy and it becomes crystal clear why civic engagement, participation, and volunteerism is so important:
One elderly lady I met during a visit there said in her wonderfully heavy French accent, “You know, when you Americans came, we knew you were coming, we had heard ze rumairs. We did not know you would come down into our backyard, you scared my chickens. But, when you moved away the Germans? When you pushed away the Boche? I helped my mother, and the other townspeople, and we would bury your dead. And that is when the relationship with America started. Because when we put your boys into ze ground? Zey become our boys: when we put your sons into ze ground, zey become our sons, and we feel it to zis day.”
Ronald Regan said, “We learned that isolationism will never again be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments.” Once committed, the subsequent push to aid in the liberation of Europe and Asia was the U.S.’s finest hour.
That said, our finest hours are not behind us!
Now we are engaged in another world war, and it requires from us the same discipline, the same heeding of those authorities deserving of our respect, the same sacrifice for the betterment of the nation. We are not collecting pots and pans, tires, copper, and aluminum from various families as we had to in the early 1940s, but to fight this COVID-19 pandemic we want to collect their same resolve.
Our soldiers died on those and so many other beaches so that we would have the opportunity to vote, and join, and volunteer. We pay those soldiers back, we pay our health care workers and first responders back, by serving, by paying rent for our space on earth.
When this COVID-19 pandemic is over we will want to reevaluate our participation in society by again joining and supporting the various charitable or social-improvement organizations. Whether it be the Boys and Girls Clubs or the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Soroptimists or the Elks, the OddFellows, the Lions, Kiwanis, Masons, Rotary, local chambers of commerce, Downtown Preservation societies, food banks, stream preservation, voter participation, emergency preparedness, or simply covering our faces with a mask, you earn it by becoming a member.
You strengthen and perpetuate the values that underlie political and social discourse versus focusing on differences — which only lends deeper meaning to our membership in those organizations, doesn’t it?
You “earn it.”
Tyranny lurks whenever we get complacent about the search for accurate knowledge and scientific fact. Revolution lurks when egos begin to hate their funerals, where the less competent or easily corrupted are allowed to influence or lead our governmental departments, where investor greed versus universal good becomes our overriding interest, or wherever we let human rights and humanitarianism, thus our humanity, get trampled.
We are learning now that populism and nationalism should not be equated with patriotism, that capitalism should not be equated with democracy. When we don’t listen to the experts, irrational thinking threatens us more than the actual threat.
For us to remain that democracy and deserve the name; for all the wars we have been involved in to make sense; we too must uphold the values of our Founding Fathers who formed the United States as a bulwark against the unbridled power of church, dictator, oligarch, potentate or plutocrat.
To govern an electorate yearning for “law and order” at whatever price was a goal of Hitler’s. The key is to surround ourselves with politicians who practice civil civic service. Would we elect anyone else?
It all comes down to two victory-sustaining words: Vote and Volunteer! Make sure every Millennial-aged person you know gets into the habit of doing both.
WWII Supreme Commander Ike Eisenhower had you in mind as well when he said to the pre-invasion force: “The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”
Sequim resident Mac Macdonald is an author and lecturer, and president of the LYFE Enhancement Company.