Thoughts of an immigrant that should make you think
Whenever I hear people say that we Americans do not have a culture I get really upset. We do have a culture! We have a culture of inclusion, collaboration, tolerance, and most of all a spirit of helpfulness. I have lived in and visited many a foreign country and I can honestly not remember any one being this way.
That is one reason why became an American citizen a couple of years ago. This uniquely American characteristic is important to perpetuate. The other reason was that I had not been allowed to vote prior to that – it is something I hold dear and near to me. As a born German I have learned the hard way that voter apathy and lack of public interest can lead to radicals like you-know-who gaining power.
Why I mention this? We have all the reasons to be proud of our Nation and States. How can I say this will all the different issues we face? Despite all the different fiscal and legal issues that so many communities endure, we can all make a huge difference in our democracy.
It has been extremely humbling to watch our democratic process at work today. I went to Harrisburg – the Pennsylvanian capital – today peacefully protesting the defunding of public brick and mortar charter schools. A few other charter schools came out and students soon flooded the gorgeous State Capitol’s rotunda. House Bill 2138 and Senate Bill 1316, which are designed to take even more funds away from already unfairly funded well performing brick and mortar charter schools, were the reason why everyone came out. Speeches were held, and many of us got a chance speaking with our representatives. The media came out too and I am sure the social media channels were set ablaze with the news of this event. It was a peaceful, and yet immensely powerful event. It is my sense that our legislators have been given a reason re-thinking these two bills. I hope so anyway.
Now that I sat down reflecting upon this real blessing of a day, I am even more humbled by what we Americans enjoy here:
- We can gather peacefully where we want. During the whole day we were at the Capitol no one, and I mean NO ONE interfered with us or the children. Wow! We were loud and noticeable and perhaps may have even caused one or the other interruption somewhere, but we did not meet with resistance by officers or orderlies.
- We can speak our mind freely about what and where we want. Again, no one came out telling anyone to take signs down etc. No matter how difficult or opposing your views are, they can all come out and go on display with everyone.
- We have so many rights to choose from. Our Constitution may be reason for many a heated debate, but one thing stands out clearly: it guarantees us plenty of rights and freedom that we can choose from. How many countries around us can truly claim this to be common practice?
- We do not have to fear reprisals when we get home. Sure enough, some forums or other outlets of information and communication may let you know that they are unhappy about what you may have had to share. On the other hand there is no lynch mob waiting for you at home or any other public space for that matter. We do not get punished for saying what we want to say.
- We can impact what and how our legislators will vote on. Parents, teacher, and children left changed today when we left the State Capitol. By coming out though we also changed the information level and perhaps even one or the other opinion of our governing body. That’s what democracy is all about. Recognize that you have this power as well. Realize that each one of us can change just about anything. You never know what one person or thought can start and later gain a lot of support in. You have to get up and start though, or at least participate.
In light of the weekly world news we hear and see so many countries struggling with providing civil liberties for their citizens. I am hoping that you will also be filled with a sense of pride about where we are blessed to live and work. Isn’t it humbling to realize that we enjoying living in the spirit of what our founding fathers fought for? We are blessed beyond measure and owe it to our children and theirs that we keep this type of democracy well and alive. Register to vote and make sure to contact your local legislators. Finally, always get and stay involved.