A hundred days came and went. Ho hum. The country continues as it did before. Lots of rhetoric, of course, because that is what is done today. At one time it was actually considered difficult to express oneself to groups of other humans either in writing or verbally. Now, well, you can’t shut anyone up. Instead of giving everyone a voice, the din of everyone speaking and writing has created such a furor of overlapping communication that nobody is heard, except those powerful few who own the main communication instruments. Donald Trump has been pretty much what he’s been all along, and the nation has learned that it really doesn’t need a president at all. Donald talks and some people listen, and then everyone moves on.
Recently Donald complained that the job is harder than he thought it would be, and everyone kind of agrees that that just about describes what jobs really are. Not fun. Meanwhile, life goes on pretty much like life was before. Without the constant barrage of the media only local stuff would matter very much…and it is local stuff that most people live in and around. Donald does not come to Lake Geneva, and not much, if anything, that he does will end up coming to, or causing change in Lake Geneva.
North Korea dumped another failed missile into the Sea of Somewhere because they don’t have any money to make or buy good stuff. Oh well. The Congress passed an emergency budget so Congressmen can continue to eat and do whatever it is they do today. Health care went into a new boring orbit up there, somewhere, near what is supposed to be a space station. Powerful men got fired for abusing the attractive women working for them…to be replaced by clones. And life goes on.
What you can do for your country these days has little to do with enlisting in the military, paying your taxes, or volunteering for the Peace Corps. All three of those things are to be lauded, but they are not things that most humans living inside the American culture will likely do, or be exposed to (except for the taxes, which most will pay as unwillingly as their president). What you can do for your country comes down to what you can do for you, and that brings everyone down to the local level. The crying need for leadership is not at the top, no matter what your opinion might be about the selection of one president after another. The near silent, sweeping need for leadership is at the local level; right where you live, go to school, work, shop, eat and more.
It’s within ten miles of where you do most of those things. One only has to attend a few city, village or town meetings to quickly realize that everyone “cares,” but nobody comes. Everyone is a critic of local leaders, but nobody offers to serve. This lack of participation, which is more a redirection of energy and time into narcissistic electronic pursuits, results in all sorts of discomforting changes. Roads are not repaired, the character of the community is not maintained, much less improved, and almost all changes to everything in the surrounding area come as a surprise. Citizens get to find out about new architecture, highway projects, lake paths, giant home building and more, after those projects are approved and underway. A few activists, almost all with axes of their own to sharpen and hone, a few bits and pieces of media (like the Geneva Shore Report), and that’s it, when it comes to alerting everyone, or anyone, as to what might be coming.
Local community involvement in the United States has never been lower, and that’s across the entire history of the nation. People have never been less involved. They don’t go to council meetings, community gatherings or anything that resembles activities that might determine the very nature of the geographic area they live in. They are not coming out to go to town, even on the weekends, unless there are special entertainment events. Church attendance is dropping, as well, due in part to the fact that most priests and preachers only have the same old message, the one that is secretly encrypted between the pages of the Bible. The message about putting money in the collection basket. How is this change, where homes across the country go from being lived in when one is not doing something else of import, to places where more and more time is spent doing little more than living vicariously through all sorts of brilliant electronic sources? A parent screams at a child scrolling madly on an iPad or iPhone about ‘not being in the moment,’ and when he or she has the child’s fearful attention the parent goes back to looking at the television while chastising the child about their lack of human interaction.
What is it going to take to pry people loose from this growing cultural predisposition to indulge in solitary “entertainment” at home, instead of engaging in their community? It might be argued that staying in the home and being immersed in this electronic world wide web is as productive as getting out into the community…except for one very real and dangerous discovery. The medium owners have figured out that human interaction is not desirable. The television is not interactive. It talks and shows people what other people want them to see and hear. It does not allow for people’s opinion, response or interaction. Computers seem interactive until you get onto the social and news sites and discover that, for the most part, you as an individual are being talked to, written to and shown stuff on sites that are not the least bit interested in your comment or opinion. Most news sites no longer accept comments from their audience. Many of these sites require monthly payments for access, even if they are local in nature (try the Lake Geneva Regional News!). Look how impossible the City of Lake Geneva has made it to see their meetings on television! Pay, watch and shut up! The new mantra of American media and entertainment.
But you can speak up, and you can participate, and you can have a huge effect, if you will pry yourself loose from that wonderful warm nest you’ve made, and drag yourself out into the community around you. When you are inside your home you should be there intentionally, not as an escape. And when you are out in the community you should be engaged in the world, participating fully in life and sharing in the interconnected creativity that is all around you, not out there marking time until you can go home. You and your community will be richer for if you can and will do this.
~ James Strauss