In honor of Memorial Day, I am republishing a post I wrote about patriotism. I hope you enjoy it. – Mary
Like me, you probably heard “Stronger Together” during Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for President.
With the painful end of that campaign behind us, it’s easy to feel like this was just another slogan. But it’s not.
It’s our heritage and strength as Americans, and it’s how we are going to survive the Trump/Pence years.
Heroes are vastly overrated
Have you been stressed out since the election and trying to find someone to tell you how to keep things from going completely to heck?
Yeah, me too.
For weeks, I cast about the internet looking for someone to just tell me what to do and how to help.
Don’t get me wrong, I found a lot of great articles, blog posts, and opinion pieces, with specific actions people are taking or recommending.
But the leader I was looking for – the one who could give me a role in a larger plan that will make everything OK – well, that person just doesn’t exist.
So I went back to basics and thought about what it means to be patriotic. I thought about the lesson of Martin Niemöller, and how much easier it will be to right our ship of state now than it will be if we despair and wait for a hero to tell us what to do.
And that is when I recalled de Tocqueville.
Self interest, rightly understood
Alexis de Tocqueville came to America in the 1830s. We were a fairly new nation, but already there was something different about the way we were handling freedom after our revolution. There was something notably special about democracy, American-style, and de Tocqueville wanted to figure that out and take it home with him to France.
“The Americans, on the other hand, are fond of explaining almost all the actions of their lives by the principle of self-interest rightly understood; they show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state. … The principle of self-interest rightly understood produces no great acts of self-sacrifice, but it suggests daily small acts of self-denial.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835
For me, the self-discipline de Tocqueville noted in the quote above is something that has been lacking in the overheated – dare I say, commodified? – national discourse about patriotism.
It is the willing offering of our time and talents to build the future of our communities: local, statewide, and national.
It is the small gift, now, that I invite you to make in order to avoid the great self-sacrifices that could be needed later if the Trump/Pence agenda is fully realized.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it
Democracy requires self-governance, and self-governance requires people to do unglamorous behind-the-scenes work. Yes, we need the HRCs who can stand in front of the crowd.
We also need the invisible people behind her who make sure that the sound system is working and the website can take donations.
We need the people who show up to union potlucks with a crock pot of stew. We need the people who attend the building code advisory committee meetings and comment on their plans, and we need the person who takes the minutes at the local Democratic Party meetings.
The work of democracy is a part of our cultural heritage, and we are stronger together because each of us can do something. Rest assured, there is that one thing that you can do, that will not get done if you don’t do it.
For me, that one thing came in the form of taking on this website’s administration.
What one thing will you do?
Opinions in this article are those of the author and do not represent official positions of TongassDemocrats.com, the Tongass Democrats, or anyone other than the author.
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