Born in 1964, I was bringing up the rear of the BABY BOOM, while American citizens were coming together and mobilizing to stop the Vietnam War, to stop polluters from destroying the environment, and to stop the heinous Jim Crow laws from subverting our democracy. And thanks to that upsurge of people power, I grew up in a culture where civic engagement was a joyful and valued community norm. As one of the last babies in the Boom (1946-1964), I have been the beneficiary of active citizenship of the first babies who delivered the Voting rights, Clean Water, and Clean Air Acts, stopped the war, and won a Constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to eighteen.
I have recently become aware that over 80% of all Americans believe that Citizens United v FEC decision by the Supreme Court was a colossal mistake. That 2010 ruling provides corporations, unions, superPACs, and even foreign donors the freedom to inject unlimited and undocumented billions into our political process. When a majority of citizens – of all political viewpoints, I might add – can agree on something, it would seem as though we ought to find out what to do about that. It turns out that We The People have a Constitutional mechanism to correct mistakes made by the highest court in the land – we can thank the founders for the turn of phrase known as Article V.
Our power to reclaim self-government from “moneyed interests” begins by becoming active participants in our own communities. Just imagine how we would jump to attention if an industrial plant were slated for our back yards, or our city government were to bulldoze three buildings right next door to make room for something that we haven’t even heard about, or our school department were to pair leaded water with our children’s school lunches. You bet we would line up to be heard.
When our country is threatened, Americans always step up – as is our right and responsibility. On my quiet, leafy street in a small historic New England town, I have been passively patriotic, putting out our flag, attending parades, tearing up at the national anthem, and taking little other action to uphold the traditions of civic engagement modeled by my parents and their peers of the greatest generation whose lives and deaths marked their great service to the nation.
Oh sure, I’m all brave and indignant in a “roomful” of 2 people in discussing a news story about how our nation is being hijacked by “moneyed interests.” If I had a nickel for every time I rolled my eyes at the news or asserted that the state of our democracy is “a disgrace,” I swear I would be one of the moneyed interests by now! We The People have been steadily ceding control over our own lives and over our national destiny –muted by corporate megaphones that hold our elected representatives in thrall to large campaign contributions.
Wherever we are on the tipping point scale, there are signs of renewal. Americans of all beliefs, political thought, and interests are coming together across the country to restore democracy of, by, and for the people with the 28th Amendment. 701 cities and towns, 17 states with 2 more on the ballot this November, millions of citizen signatures, hundreds of supporters in Congress. This movement will overturn Citizens United v FEC and allow Congress to set reasonable limits on campaign contributions. Americans will renew effective self-government in all its mess and glory. Restoring the spirit of our Constitution of The United States of America by its 250th birthday rises to the level of national service seen by generations of Americans before us.
There are refreshing signs of citizen action in this month alone: 1) First Debate Democracy is a national campaign asking that the first presidential debate be devoted to discussing the candidates’ thoughts on American democracy. 2) Four days later, the first-ever National Citizens Leadership Conference in Washington will gather 250 citizen leaders from 40 states and every political viewpoint to deliberate on the 28th Amendment. This is hosted by American Promise, headquartered in Concord. 3) In the meantime, September 16th is Constitution Day. It’s an opportunity to renew our patriotic souls by reading the Constitution, which provides us the rights, honors, and privileges that responsible, self-governing people can claim without reservation.
North Bridge American Promise Association
Acton, Bedford, Carlisle, Concord, Lincoln, Sudbury