Citizenship is a bit like a marriage. At some point in the ceremony the minister looks out over those gathered together and provides a moment for those who are opposed to the marriage to voice their concerns. We Americans are living in that moment. Unfortunately, our president is not pausing to hear any voices. I doubt many on that second Tuesday in November last year thought that now President Obama would come to office and push through such wide-sweeping, even radical, changes and do it as fast as he is currently doing. We are a country of laws and procedures. It is customary for us to watch as the politicians hem and haw and call it debate. It takes forever for Washington to act. Right? Barely 60 days into Obama’s reign, we are rapidly gaining an understanding of how Obama intends to govern. Inclusion? Gone. Debate? Over. Transparency? Never happened.
President Obama is intent on pushing through his agenda no matter what. We are to accept his plans and not question the details. Well, as a people we have always had the option of expressing our opinion and taking action when we disagree with our government. Nothing is more fundamental to our governing system. The problem is today fewer and fewer people appreciate this gift given to us by the Founders. That’s unfortunate because we’re heading at bullet-train speed toward a time when dissent, if not criminalized, will be crushed by social, political and legal infrastructures that are now in their infancy. Already people are expressing their fear of speaking out. They speak quietly; they whisper; they keep their thoughts to themselves. They dislike heated debate. They fear reprisals. They don’t want to make waves. Waves are exactly what we need. In fact, right now we could do with a wave of Tsunami proportion.
That there is a growing anxiety at the wide-ranging proposals being pushed through in Washington without discussion and, worse, without being read is clear. You can see it in the tea parties sprouting up in state after state, town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood. You can feel the unease as it settles in and people begin to search for others who share their fears and their uncertainties. Neighbors are gathering and they’re talking. But is talking enough?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your anxieties are having an impact on how you function, do something. Talking is good. Action is better. “What can I do?” is a refrain heard hour by hour as people respond to the nonstop stream of events out of Washington. The answer is that it depends. What works for you? If talking and meeting with others who share your fears and concerns help, do that. If writing about what worries you helps, do that. The mushrooming tea parties offer opportunities to combine talk with action. Online groups such as the burgeoning Glenn Beck’s 912 Project provide ways for people from all over the country to congregate. Even a simple action such as ordering and reading books can be helpful. Find authors who are talking about your concerns. Engage with them by reading their words and examining their ideas. Change your self-talk and rid yourself of fear.
Your level of engagement will be defined by your character but know that action is needed to stop the rising tide of anxiety and fear. Doing nothing is dangerous; dangerous for you and dangerous for the country. If you are worried by this administration’s focused, intentional rush to take over so many areas that will impact your daily life, then the time to act is now—not later when the ability to act has been erased. Feel better: Act. Treasury Secretary Geithner says we have a moment of opportunity. I say, don’t waste it. The opportunity to dissent is here. Grab it.