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American showed passion at the polls this past week. People came out in record numbers to vote for their choice for president and all the other stuff on the ballot too.
That's the problem. The presidential election is the primary election that people vote in. However, they forget the importance of smaller elections and the other people on the ballot, come Election Day. Your vote matters every year, not just every four years.
Voter apathy affects the presidential election because the people being voted in during that four-year period are part of the U.S. checks and balances system. That means the person in office today may be the person fighting your president when he is trying to pass laws to help people.
We saw this consistently during President Obama's first term as he struggled against the deadlock in the House and Senate. Whether it was the increasing racial tension or the slow collapse of the nation, the last four years were trying for President Obama.
However, the president is not solely responsible for fixing the mess that America is in. It is up to the people to elect officials and to get out and be active politically and personally to make change happen. It is the responsibility of each American to be active in their community to create political change.
Political discourse begins at home. One of the biggest complaints heard from Chicagoans is about crime in their community. If you are interested in changing that, then go to your local elected official's office. Write your local officials. Email your local officials. Make your name known. Talk to them about options to organize your community. Organizing the community is an excellent way to say to criminals that we are here, we see you, we are together, and we are not taking your activity in our neighborhoods any more. The more organized and vocal a group is with elected officials and law enforcement, the better the results the community will see.
If you want something done, you have to stand up and be vocal. Start by organizing block club meetings and asking your neighbors to attend. When people have to look you in the face and explain that their son, brother, cousin, boyfriend is bringing gangs and drugs to the neighborhood with the bullets that go along with that, then they may be inclined to stop looking the other way when someone's child is shot because of their family member. Community involvement is really the very first step in political activity because an organized community with detailed expectations can be very influential in political action.
Charity and organizational leadership
Community organization typically leads to charitable action. Find a local charity. Do not give $1 or $5. Sign up to help the organization at least once a month. The person you help today can be a leader tomorrow.
Record unemployment has left a lot of families homeless. There are many children without a home right now. When you reach out to help them, you are saving their life. You can go to your local organizations like fraternities and sororities, the local NAACP, or the local church and organize within to help people through charity. This can be with time, goods and food, or with money. You can hold events and fundraisers. This is the prime time to invite elected officials to your neighborhood to see what more that person can do to help you help others.
It is your responsibility to be active outside the political arena in ways that affect your community. The more you do in terms of voting, organizing, and making your elected officials work for the office they are in, the more you are actually doing for yourself and others in your community. Make the effort to make your voice matter where you are. Be the change you want to see.