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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Local Political Awareness and Participation

Occupy Richmond, no offense seems a bit less fruitful than it could be. A handful of people (or a brave army of one) stand on a corner with a sign. The optimist sees it as an exercise in democracy. The pessimist sees a waste of time. I see it as an admirable right of expression, but without pragmatic direct involvement, it seems to be nothing more than a small attention grabber for a small population who perhaps may feel otherwise like an almost silent minority.

City Building Image Source

When I consider the problems our community faces, we seem to be a microcosm of the larger picture. The problems we face are not unique to us. They are problems the nation needs to address. Unemployment, drug abuse, crime and a general malaise (etc., etc., etc.) are not only Richmond's problems, they are the problems of the United States. When I see people express outrage and frustration with the status quo, I understand and nod in agreement. But when I see people protesting national politics on the street corners of our city, I do wonder at the effectiveness of such a protest. One may argue it is to inspire awareness, but if awareness of the cracked up American political scene is lacking, I am surprised. Blues and Reds and in-betweens as well as the unaffiliated can all become purple in the face describing just what is wrong in America today. Politics and political awareness are some things I have actively worked to evade in the past!

Have these people ever attended a local public meeting? Do they vote for local and state representatives that they feel represent them after having researched their options? It's easier to look at the staged drama of national level politics and forget the problems in our own backyards. I know I do. I find myself at the polls each time, promising to be more informed and guess selecting the smaller stuff and hot button pushing the big ones. Maybe it's easier emotionally. It's more impersonal to vote for a figurehead president than to consider people who could be our neighbors as our government representatives. One can even make a game of potshots at a president we will never have to face, but when we vote on a local level we either stick our head's in the sand or consider the feelings of the candidates we could possibly (and probably) know. We display our signs as a sign of loyalty to a party or person, with the full knowledge that in supporting that one we are withdrawing support of another even if we don't mean to give offense. It's also easier to rail against what we can look at as a giant conspiracy of American downfall than to look at our own city and take initiative where doing needs done. There are informed individuals and active participants among us, but there could be more. I'd like to be one of them. I'm not there yet. I'm considering the effectiveness of those politically involved in the Occupy Richmond movement, while yet having to google Richmond City government stats. I wish you could see me wink, so that you would know not to take offense at my lighthearted monologue.

All I know is this: in order to tackle a very large problem, it's easiest to work on the smaller details first. When the smaller things are taken care of consistently on a daily basis, the larger things seem to take care of themselves. At the very least, things are much smoother. Maybe it would work on a political level. If we awoke to local politics and community based problem solving, would national tasks seem less insurmountable?

So here is my to do list:

1. Figure out who's in charge here.

2. Attend my first public meeting.

3. Stop guess selecting at the local polls. (Don't judge me, internet. I'm not the only one!)

50 North 5th Street, here I come, ready or not!

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