Time to Take America Back for All People

I follow a number of blogs and Facebook posts mostly to stay informed and out of curiosity. One in particular has had my attention for a great deal of time and deals with my hometown in Ohio. It was a great place to grow up. As a child, my peers and I were free to run around and be kids. Many of my classmates hoped to attain positions in the local factories or at least be able to continue to live there and have happy and productive lives. It was a good town with a great deal of pride in its history, schools, and citizenry.
However, it was also like many other Midwestern towns and tried to rely on that hope too much to sustain it once the factories began laying off workers and subsequently either going out of business or moving out-of-town, and sometimes, even the country as a whole. The leaders of the time did not know what hit them. They hoped there would be a bounce back. Later, they hoped to become a bedroom community for the closest big city that is about 35 miles away. The last part happened, but the leaders were not prepared for the ramifications of that happening either. They were not prepared for the bad elements of the big city to come to town. By bad element, I mean the drugs, crime, and even absentee landlords who purchased many houses and chose to keep them at the bare minimum of standards of living and even rent to the criminal element that came from the big city.
Now, my hometown is a shadow of what it once was. Parts of town that once had hope are now falling under disrepair and the scourge of crime. Citizens are feeling less safe in neighborhoods that once were very safe. The drug rate is climbing even faster than the unemployment rate. The rate of high school students graduating has dropped drastically. Like many towns of the Midwest, it is falling apart and many of the people are feeling hopeless. I visited the town a couple of weeks ago and witnessed it firsthand. I saw people walking around looking dejected. I saw businesses that once flourished now sitting boarded up. I saw a town that looked tired from its buildings to its people. It saddened me deeply then and continues to do so even as I write this essay.
On one of the Facebook posts, I heard someone lament that no one seems to care and they do not feel heard by the politicians who are in power. Someone else asked that person if he or she attends council meetings. They said they did not, but did not feel it would matter. That is the sound of defeat. That is the sound of despair. That is the sound of defeat. That is not the sound that should ever come from any human being. Hemingway once wrote, “But man is not made for defeat…A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” It is time for people to realize that quote is true. A person can be destroyed, but as long as there is breath in a person’s body, they should never allow themselves to be defeated!
So how does someone combat the chance of being defeated? It takes work. It takes courage. It takes the will that is inherent in humanity to stand up and fight those who would defeat him or her. It takes a few things that I wish to point out in greater detail. I will call these things, the plan to take America back for the people.
First, people have to find the courage to stand up and be heard at all levels of government. We live in a nation that elects its officials to office for set terms. Many states offer even ways to recall their elected officials if those officials do not represent the will of the people. Citizens need to exercise that right. Now, recall who I said need to stand up, citizens. These are not corporations. These are not special interest groups. These are not the wealthy alone. These are the people who live in the towns, cities, villages, and big cities of our nation. Each person needs to become active in the government for which they form the basis. While many elect people to serve them for a number of reasons, they also need to monitor what those people are doing while in office. Yes, this takes work. Yes, this takes time and time is a precious commodity. It also takes the willingness to research the positions the candidates take before they are elected as well as what they do once elected. It takes siphoning through what the media says to find the truth of the matter. Politicians say anything to get elected, but once they are in office, they are doing more of what their large donors want them to do rather than what is actually good for all of the people they represent.
A part of this is attending council and commissioner meetings and making yourself heard. Show up enough and they will have to listen. Keep talking. Write letters to the editors of local newspapers or articles on blogs. Talk to your friends and the people you meet regardless of where you are. Be the squeaky wheel for change when something upsets you. Organize others of like mind and protest, have letter-writing campaigns, call the elected officials, and email them. Make your voice be heard. If they are not doing their job and representing all their constituents, vote them out. Find or be the candidate that takes their job from them. Do whatever it takes to make your voice heard.
Want more jobs in your community? This is where it starts. Pester your elected officials about what they are doing to bring jobs to the area. If they are not doing enough, then find out why and work to get businesses to your community. If you are a local businessperson, then work with others to get good paying jobs to come to the area. You hold even more influence that is political because you have a business there. If you have an idea for a business that would be needed in your community, then consider starting it. There is plenty of help there to get you started if you just ask.
Another way to get more jobs in your community is to frequent community based businesses rather than the large box stores. One of the worst stores to enter into a town is Wal-Mart. They are notorious for coming in and under pricing their competition while saying they are there to help the communities they are in. Take a good look at their practices. Take a good and informed look at how they treat their employees, how much they pay them, if they offer them any real benefits. They are not in your town to help anyone but their bottom line. I could go on, but that is for another time.
My point is that local businesses are there to help the community where they make their profits. They are owned by your neighbor or at least someone who lives in the same area as you live. They have a stake in the city and area where they do business. If they fail, then it is due to not offering service or a product that is needed. If they succeed, they expand and hire more people from the area. It is simple economics. Smart customers will pay a little extra for better service. If the locally owned business wants to stay afloat, they can by offering what the customer wants in a manner that makes that customer feel welcomed and treated fairly regardless of the price. However, they can only do that if the community buys from them rather than the large, corporate stores.
Tired of crime in your community? Take to the streets to fight it. Form neighborhood watch committees. Get involved with the police or other law enforcement to kick the criminals out or make their lives so miserable that they leave on their own. Years ago, when I was growing up, the criminals in my hometown, especially the drug dealers, left because the law enforcement was so strict and determined to keep them from setting up shop that they left or went to jail or prison. That has to happen again. Are there bad cops? Yes, that happens, but even they are subject to the law and cannot be there for long once they are found out. It takes a citizenry to help the good cops, which outnumber the bad, to rid a town of the criminal element once it gets a foothold.
Want better schools? Then be part of the solution. Get active in your local schools by volunteering at them. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister to a child who needs a strong adult role model. Many children need some help or just need someone to reinforce what their parents are doing right. Demand more for your students even if your kids have grown up and moved away. We all know the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, but few actually realize the work that calls for. When I was growing up, the adults in my neighborhood were in our business all the time. They told our parents if we misbehaved and even scolded us themselves on occasion.
Teachers need your support now more than ever as well. They face many demands that are not sound educationally, but have been pushed on the public as being good (for example, mandated, high stakes testing). Stop vilifying them or teachers unions as the enemy. They are not the enemy. The overwhelming majority of teachers want the best for their students. There are those who do not, but they leave teaching pretty fast when they realize that parents are not going to stand for their lack of concern for the students. In addition, many teachers unions also try to weed out the bad rather than keep them, regardless of what the media says. Again, rather than complain, volunteer in the schools to see what is happening rather than just heard about it.
Tired of run down homes in your community? Then do what you can to either spruce them up or get council to tear them down. Abandoned homes help contribute to crime and vermin. If you have a neighbor who needs help fixing their home, then help them or find someone who can. Many churches have youth groups or men’s groups that would love to help fix up their communities. If you know someone who owns property and his or her tenants are behaving in a criminal manner, then let the property owner and law enforcement know. If you are renting from a property owner who keeps your rental in a state that is just a little better than the minimum, then talk with them first to see if they are willing to let you help them keep it up for a small reduction in your rent. If not and they will not improve the living conditions, and then find another place to live or just keep on the landlord. You could also contact the health department and let them know if it truly is an unsafe property.
This list is not exhaustive, but it is a start. If people do not start to act on their behalf and the behalf of their neighbors and friends, then America is destined to continue its downward spiral to being run by the wealthy through politicians who only seek to keep getting elected and catering to the whims of their wealthy donors. If we want to truly take America back from special interests, then we need to be willing to work to take it back rather than sit idly by and let others make the decisions for us.
America is not a corporation. America is its people. America is not a particular political ideology. America is its people. America is not its government. American government is its people. We cannot allow ourselves to be what Lincoln feared when he quoted scripture and said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We are becoming that unless we stand up and take America back by focusing on ourselves as Americans first rather than allowing all those things we label ourselves as to divide us. We can only do so by working together and standing up for each other.

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