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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Where are we at? 

A long-time friend of the Clarion Content, while still living in Durham before decamping for Southern California, once made the comment that, "These days if you write your congressman six times a year you're a crank." We couldn't help but agree at the time, more than eight years ago, and we have been brooding over that thought ever since. We think it is time to re-examine it in light of the newly dawning Obama era.

Why can't you write your congressperson a bunch? These days when one does write one's congressperson it takes weeks for a response and one is lucky if one does not get a form letter (or form e-mail, as the case may be.) Forget about it, if one wants to write a Senator or a Congressperson who is not one's own. That most certainly generates a form letter or e-mail stating that the Senator/Congressperson does not have time to answer correspondence other than that from their own constituents. The Clarion Content has personally experienced this phenomenon with more than a couple of Senators in the last decade. It is ridiculous hubris and an outrage. How does one write the sponsor of a particular piece of legislation in either the House or the Senate if said sponsor is not one's own representative? Forgive our shorthand but WTF?!?

The Clarion Content's bent is for libertarian government that has a very light hand. However, this is not the same thing as a society that has very limited civic engagement. In fact, to have a society which can function with a relatively small, unintrusive government, one likely needs to posit a very engaged society, with lots of active civic organizations and outlets. The Clarion Content fears that for far too long a stretch in modern America we have had a dearth of civic involvement and civic engagement. Government is not a dirty word. Some in Washington, D.C. and on the radio airwaves disparage this kind of activity when the impetus is not the private sector. The President anticipated them in his inaugural address, "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them— that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works..." The Clarion Content firmly believes that when things stall at the scale that they have in the global economy it is okay for government to kick start the engine or prime the pump as it were.

In our view, it is at such moments that the need for civic engagement and an involved citizenry is the greatest. As the President said in his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination, "...we must also admit that fulfilling America's promise will require more than just money. It will require a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us to recover what John F. Kennedy called our intellectual and moral strength." The Clarion Content could not agree more and the President has continued to reiterate this theme.

Furthermore, the Federal Government under the leadership of President Obama is being called upon to give all citizens more of an opportunity to be engaged and involved. One such manner in which the government is doing this is a website that the President mentioned in his speech to the joint session of Congress last week. It is called recovery.gov and it allows one to track how the money from the stimulus bill is being spent. It has, of course, other embedded links to articles and government websites with details about particular plans and elements. It is a fascinating portal. And right on the front page is a link to share one's experience, for good or for ill with government and to give feedback on the spending of what, if you are a taxpaying American citizen, are your dollars. The Clarion Content loves it.

One final note, to those who reject the monetary policy of the stimulus package, especially the Republican governors we have been writing about recently, here in Durham we could use it. We saw the Mayor of Newark Corey Booker speak at Duke University and he said they could use it (and would use it) there in Newark, too. In Durham, more computers in our schools would be great, more money for our teachers would be great, more after-school programs would be great, better school facilities, more money for city road repair and re-paving of existing streets, more money for water and sewage system maintenance and upgrades, more money for public parks, and as anyone who has been to the public library lately can tell you, more money for public access computers with high speed internet. The government can harvest massive future economic gains for America's Gross National Product out of connecting, revamping and refurbishing the infrastructure of our country. It is Americans money and American society that is in the doldrums, we have a historic opportunity. To quote the President again, this time from his speech to the joint session of Congress last week, "Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face and take responsibility for our future once more. Now, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that for too long, we have not always met these responsibilities - as a government or as a people."

Seize the day. It is the time. Find a way to get involved. It is your duty and America needs you.

We offer this final thought, not only as self-rationalization, but also as a reminder to all. Monitoring, reporting, and chronicling what is going on around you counts, more so if you use your knowledge to help keep your fellow citizenry informed.

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