Next year will not be better unless we get involved | Opinion

December 27, 2021 6:00 am

(photo by vencavolrab/Stock Images)

As a new year dawns, many of us may find it difficult to be very hopeful about anything as we continue to see so many negative forces impacting our daily lives. But we all have choices. We can choose to be resigned and discouraged, or we can choose to do something about it.

The New Year’s tradition includes gathering with family and friends to ring in another year and make resolutions to change and improve some aspect of our lives.

Making personal resolutions is good. But when you look at the state of your community, city, state or nation, are those resolutions enough?

Can we afford to not look beyond our personal circumstances, no matter what they might be?

Amid the angst, anger, disgust, or powerlessness we may feel about the two negative forces that are directly impacting every aspect of our lives — a raging pandemic and relentless political dysfunction — we cannot afford to remain silent or do nothing. Both are major threats to what our lives could be like in the future.

You rightfully ask, what can we do as individuals or collectively?

We can do a lot.

First, we can fully embrace and accept the fact that each of us has a role to play in bringing about change. It is not left up to someone else.

For example: Each of us has only to look at whether our action or inaction has contributed to how we are affected by the coronavirus. When it comes to the political disfunction, each of us must also acknowledge how our action or inaction allows it to continue.

We do not have the option of washing our hands from the two most negative forces impacting our lives at this very moment which will continue to impact us in the new year. If we insist upon staying on the sidelines doing nothing about either, they will not get better automatically.

Secondly, we must accept personal accountability and hold others accountable.

How can we do that? We can start now becoming well-informed citizens and exercise the greatest power we have at every level of government that impact our lives — from the U.S. Congress, to the statehouse, the county legislature, to city hall.

Our participation at every level and our vote can make a big difference.

At the end of the day, what is done or fails to be done in those legislative bodies is felt in our households.

Thirdly, embrace the opportunities in 2022 to get involved where it will count if you want to see real change.

We cannot afford to be passive observers who get excited or angry about what is happening around us. Venting is not enough. Neither the nation’s health nor politics is a spectator sport.

Shortly after the new year dawns, we will be bombarded with an avalanche of political postering and campaigning, some of which is already well underway.

How will we be able to distinguish between the two narratives — factual and false — competing for our support and vote?

There are many things we can do.

One, take the time to become informed. Get information about issues from multiple sources. Just listening to or watching our favorite news outlets is not enough. To understand and get a more complete picture of what is going on, we must look to different sources, whether we like or agree with them or not.

Two, don’t just listen to what candidates or elected officials say. Watch what they do and have done.

For example: Is the elected official who is asking you to put them back in office vaccinated and wearing a mask but is silent and downplay or outright rail against others getting vaccinated or wearing masks?

At the end of the day, what politicians do, more than what they say, will directly impact your life and that of your family members.

Compare their positions to the rate of infection and deaths that you see occurring every day, as the virus mutates and rages.

Another example: What has any candidate said and done about the issues that directly impact you and your family’s quality of life? The state of the economy? Your wages and ability to earn a living? Access to affordable health care? Family leave? Adequate housing?

Three, take it even further. Do those candidates share your values and principles when it comes to the meaning of patriotism, voting rights, education or decency?

With all the efforts taking place in state legislatures, from changing how we cast our votes or redrawing legislative districts for political advantage to dictating what can or cannot be taught to our children in schools, are you okay with it?

At the end of the day, what politicians do, more than what they say, will directly impact your life and that of your family members. On a larger scale, those same actions will determine what kind of nation we live in, who we become as Americans.

Are you okay with that? Are you content to remain on the sidelines and just let harmful things unfold without you making a deliberate effort in trying to stop them?

Our sensible actions against a raging coronavirus and our active participation in the 2022 elections will have short and long-term consequences.

As we reflect upon what life has been like as this year ends, and a new year begins, what are we willing to invest in making things better, to change the downward and destructive trajectory that we are on as a nation, as Americans?

Making traditional personal New Year resolutions is not enough. Resolving to exercise the immense power we the people have with our involvement and our vote is desperately needed.

Stopping the negative forces impacting our lives, and our nation, next year is left up to us — not them.

Whoever your “them” might be.

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Janice Ellis
Janice Ellis

Janice Ellis has lived and worked in Missouri for more than three decades, analyzing educational, political, social and economic issues across race, ethnicity, age and socio-economic status. Her commentary has appeared in The Kansas City Star, community newspapers, on radio and now online. She is the author of two award-winning books: From Liberty to Magnolia: In Search of the American Dream (2018) and Shaping Public Opinion: How Real Advocacy Journalism™ Should be Practiced (2021). Ellis holds a Ph.D. in communication arts, and two Master of Arts degrees, one in communications arts and a second in political science, all from the University of Wisconsin.