A Citizen's Duty
For most of my life, beginning with my paper route days as a 6th grader, I’ve been a news hound. Current events, geopolitical goings on, and history have always been of deep interest to me. I devoured newspapers, journals, and watched news shows religiously, including weekend talk shows and panels. If you know about The McLaughlin Group and its combative and collegial (yes, that is possible) debating style then you know what I mean. That has changed radically in the last few years. I now make it a point to avoid broadcast news in all of its forms as conscientiously as I once pursued them, and to use discretion in selecting other sources.
This is not to say that I’ve lost my appetite for news. In fact, it is precisely because I desire to be well informed of facts, which is something today’s mass media has not been interested in providing for some time. As the nation has spiraled into the chaos of political warfare on every front, the “news” has become just another weapon in the arsenal. Left or Right, it doesn’t matter. Broadcasts and political print news are primarily about two things: Promoting your particular agenda and the character assassination of anyone who does not agree with it. Neither side is blameless.
One of the highest duties of a citizen is to inform themselves, consider the issues at hand, and vote their conscience, morals, and beliefs. Today, many citizens have become lazy, preferring instead to listen to the talking heads that spout what they think sounds good (however that might be defined) and effectively say, “yeah, what he/she said.” We have surrendered our minds to others who tell us what to think and believe, and how to vote, and we let them get away with it. The worst are the tens of millions who consume agenda-driven social media news channels manufactured to deceive, divide, and destroy us, taking it all in as gospel.
No wonder this country is in a mess. What can we as citizens do about it?
One important requirement is that citizens, acting with respect, integrity, and honor toward all, reassert their role as deciders of the national course. In doing this, we demonstrate to those we elect our expectations of them as our representatives, both in how they govern and in how they go about it. Then we hold them accountable when we vote. But, we cannot hold our elected officials to a higher standard until we have first done the same of ourselves.
How can individual citizens effect such a change, you ask? We do it by informing ourselves from credible sources and applying the due diligence of our own values and critical thinking. We listen to, read, study, and discuss competing candidates, platforms, and policies. Then we judge. We decide which trough we will drink from and then filter that intake, applying our own sensibilities to maintain our independence. We vote what we individually believe, not what a party machine tells us we must.
It isn’t easy. I do not believe that there is a single completely unbiased source for news today. There may be still, but in all my searching I have not found it. That does not mean there are no good options. It simply means we must search for the best we can find as a starting point. I consume two news sources daily, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. WSJ leans Right, Reuters leans Left. As a consumer, that puts me in the middle, right where I want to be. In addition, I listen to podcasts that go deeper on issues and present a range of perspectives. From there, I can make up my own mind, thank you very much. My process? It is simple: I read, listen, think, test, pray, and then I decide.
The issue here is not that everyone follow the same process or apply the same values. The issue is that as citizens we must independently exercise our values, intelligence, and rights through diligence, respectful discourse, and voting what WE believe is right. If not, we are left to take what comes without right of complaint.