Stay Engaged

The larch needles are ablaze across the mountains and the clouds have shifted their position to loom over the peaks. Skies are ever changing from black to light in a matter minutes. Snow is falling in the high country and the torrential downpour has laced our driveway with fallen aspen leaves. Fall has arrived.

And this fall in particular, it’s worth noting that I’m not only paying attention to the abundant changes across western Montana, sensing to the best of my ability the slip to fall and winter but I’m also trying to stay as engaged as I can with the political landscape. A landscape that is surely not as beautiful or grand as Glacier’s but it very much unsettled and unruly as this past week’s storm cycle.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been interested in politics. I’ve wanted to know what’s going on in our government and was ecstatic to participate in school wide “mock” presidential elections. In elementary school, I did my part to stay engaged with Washington DC by firing off letters to President Clinton about my concerns for the environment. I was a member of student council in my middle and high school years. My mother works for the local newspaper and it was the culture of our household to stay informed and engaged.

I care about our elected officials and their policies. And I worry. A lot. And I moan and grumble about the type of people who are running for office in both national and local elections. I’m fired up and angered about the arena of politics that likes to control and impose their own beliefs on women’s rights and access to health care. Why is a vagina so scary, I ask? I worry a lot, people. I’m saddened that a wolf has scared the shit out of Montanans and is public enemy number one.  The fact that climate  change is still up for debate in this country when it’s not a debate in the global and scientific communities is nothing short of shocking. I’m troubled that screaming and yelling and lying has replaced any type of thoughtful, intelligent rhetoric.

However, what worries me most is that people don’t want to be engaged with the election.  I hear every day, between the channels of the Internet and my interactions at work, that people are tired of politics. That they don’t know how to be engaged. That they won’t watch the debate or pick up a newspaper.

I’m not proud of how campaigns are run and I’m especially grateful that I don’t own a television so I don’t have to retch during an political ad but that doesn’t mean that I won’t challenge myself to stay informed and engaged. Television is not the only source on the election. Newspapers are still being printed every day and although their numbers are dwindling, support them! Support journalism before all the good journalists lose their jobs and your local newspaper stops printing. In case you’re not aware, there’s also the Internet. The information is there, waiting for you to click or thumb through a page.

Cole and I recently returned from our honeymoon to Italy and Germany. We had many conversations with our German friends about the presidential election in the U.S. The entire world has their eyes on who will be elected president on November 6th. Our friends were well informed, curious and engaged. I can’t always say the same about my fellow countrymen. I was very embarrassed that I didn’t have their level of information on German politics. There’s an entire world out there…

The presidential election is once every four years. Democracy is something that needs constant tending and is not to be taken lightly. What makes me so proud to be an American is that I have every right and freedom to stay informed, stay curious, stay engaged and certainly question the actions of my government. As a citizen, I believe it’s my duty to be a participant.

I’ve worried about broadcasting my political sentiments on Facebook and this blog. But to not express my concerns or my disdain or my support for a particular candidate or policy is just as bad as criticizing those who are not willing to even be engaged. Participating in politics may not always be “cool” but in order to keep America the best country it can be requires a certain amount of civic duty. I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a patriot. And I’m thankful that I can declare my patriotism as well as my hopes for a better America.

I look back to that young girl I once was — fearless in her determination that her concern for the environment (and this concern has certainly not lessened). That girl took the time to write a letter to the President and this woman can certainly carve out the time and energy to stay as passionate as she once was.

What I know now is that Montana is in its full fall splendor and I wish its beauty will be everlasting. However, in order to protect the natural resources that made me fall in love with this place, I have to stay politically engaged so the elected officials will strive to maintain,and not exploit its resources for some short-lived and short-sighted boom, its beauty and natural heritage for other mountain seekers like myself.

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