It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. (Winston Churchill)
I had the opportunity yesterday to speak to some young political campaign workers. I ended talking about the hard work of citizenship, work that far too many in this country don't even recognize as work that belongs to them, let alone work that they are willing to do. Liturgy, a word that now is used only in ecclesiastical circles, originally meant the public work of the people in sustaining the life of the city - the polis - and that meant politics.
Politics is the way in which we make decisions about our common life, and thus politics is far too important to leave to our elected officials. Voting is not the beginning and the end of our work as citizens, even though many of us don't even show up for that work. Engaging with elected officials between elections is one of the responsibilities of citizenship that is neglected by most of us. We can't be bothered or we think that our opinions don't matter and so, while we grouse to our friends about the decisions that are made in Congress or the state legislature, we never write or e-mail or call the people whom we elected to represent us. When we are silent, the voices that are heard are those of lobbyists and others who understand how to influence political decisions.
It doesn't take many calls or letters or even e-mails to get an official's attention. One Roman Catholic nun with whom I once worked said that twenty letters from constituents about an issue was a deluge. A legislator's staff member said that the phones had been ringing all day with calls about an issue - there were seventeen calls. We are mistaken if we think that legislators don't pay attention to the opinions of constituents. And we are dead wrong if we think that it isn't our responsibility to help shape the decisions that are made about our common life.
I heard someone said that serving others is the rent we pay for living on this earth. I agree and would add that active involvement with politics is the rent we pay for living in the United States.