Unlike just about everyone on our little street, I try to fly the American flag on a regular basis at our house, not just on patriotic holidays. It is a gesture of my appreciation for our country’s traditions and ideals.
Similarly, I do try to spend some time around Memorial Day to say a silent prayer en behalf of those who have served our country and given the ultimate sacrifice. We wouldn’t be here without their service.
But it isn’t nearly enough to fly the flag or express patriotism verbally alone. Being truly engaged in our democracy, by striving to remain informed should ensure the war dead are memorialized. Presumably, being knowledgeable leads to better decision-making and puts pressure on our leaders to act wisely and responsibly. That’s how it is supposed to work, anyway.
That’s why an otherwise innocuous exchange in a local store struck me as an unfortunate example of failure to act in a way that’s consistent with what our forefathers intended.
It in was a little shop in suburbia. I was wearing a fleece given to me by C-SPAN, non-profit the cable television network which televises proceedings of the federal government, as well as the National Press Club. I was Club president two years ago.
The young man, who looked to be in his 20s, seeing the C-SPAN name and logo, said “that looks like a television channel, or something.” I said “yes, it’s a channel devoted to the affairs of the government.” He mentioned that he likes watching YouTube and looking at a website devoted to technology. And then he added, “I don’t really care about what happens in this country.” Without much pause, I said, “It is good that you have that luxury.” It wasn’t necessarily a constructive reply on my part, but reflected my inner frustration.
Who knows what led the young man to be disinterested in government? It could be lack of education, cynicism, or parents who also failed to set an example.
Our country is far from perfect, but we have more than two centuries of history demonstrating an ability to innovate, adapt and improve.
In an ideal world, in which we don’t live, there would be a better balance between true community involvement, at the intersection of awareness, action and comfort. Clearly, this young man’s world favored only the latter.
Our exchange was not unpleasant, and he undoubtedly was unaware of my unease about his orientation.
As I prepared to leave, he failed to make the correct change from our transaction, giving me about a half dollar too much in coins. I corrected him and handed it back. Here’s hoping he also begins to understand the transaction of our democracy and why so many people have given their lives so we can look forward to a long weekend.