Our Founders insightful intelligence was nicely penned with the words of our United States Constitution, which have held strong through the test of time, thus far. But when John Adams, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington wrote this guiding document, they envisioned a democracy comprised of informed and politically educated citizens. To fulfill this duty we, as citizens, need to gather information, going far beyond what mainstream media reveals to us. This kind of dedication takes time and effort. Most of all it requires individuality, being able to think for one’s self. Sometimes this means going against the mainstream tide, but so be it.
Back in the day, citizens walked for miles to hear a favorite politician declare his ideology from a megaphone. Candidates went state by state on horseback, stumping their love of America, all the while engaging in meaningful political discourse with their constituents. This political banter between the candidate and your average Joe was considered an honor and a duty of privilege. It was unacceptable, to be uninformed. It was the citizen and his vote that held power, not lobbyists, funding from a Political Action Committees, or donations of any kind.
A functioning democracy needs communication and a flourishing democratic makeup commands it. But public discourse has been hugely absent from our landscape, for as far back as I can remember, except for at my dinner table, or listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show while riding in my dad’s car. Politics was never a “dirty word” amongst my inner circle.
But then Facebook came along and opened endless possibility for old-fashioned public discourse and more.
For me, Facebook equals public discourse and I love it. As a political scientist, I absorb politics as a natural part of life and all of it is good–even the bad–because we are free. Facebook emerged as a wonderful social base, used for a variety of things by people at different stages in life. Friends snap photos of their food, an injury at the emergency room, grown babies in their prom best, animals in silly sleeping positions, strangers walking through Wal-Mart and an endless array of more.
My favorite subculture of Facebook is the freedom of political discourse. I adore the connection of like minds and ideology with the opportunity to indulge my insatiable political interest. I love thinking for myself, and then seeing this reflected in others who have taken the time to do their job, as a citizen.
The image of President John F Kennedy giving his inaugural speech remains vivid in my mind. Old black and white film footage captured the handsome President standing at the brand new inaugural platform jetting out from the Capitol, on that freezing cold Friday morning, January 20, 1961.
It is the last paragraph of his timeless speech that will always ring loud, clear, and true and would behoove us all to never forget these words, from his thoughtful wisdom and spoken from the heart:
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
Overwhelming words, every time I read them.
It is a powerful feeling to be intellectually connected with millions of other citizens, many whom I have never met, some living across the globe and yet somehow, we understand the world through the exact same lens.
Interestingly there are many ‘friends’ on Facebook who aren’t political at all. They much prefer photographing their meals and discussing personal doings, something which I would never dream of revealing to anyone other than a person of intimacy. And yet these very same people find political postings offensive, or “too serious” in nature. I can certainly appreciate the lighter side of life; I have a very large pair of “rose-colored glasses” that I always keep nearby. But while others were relieved to have the election year over and begging others to stop with the Facebook politics, I say “rock on.”
Otherwise, how can we “ask what I can do for my country” if we don’t even know what is going on?