American Exceptionalism Requires Informed Engagement and Participation from Citizens

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Are Kootenai voters apathetic and complacent?

Guest Opinion

By John Spencer of Hayden, Idaho

Throughout American history, the notion of American exceptionalism has been reinforced by key events and developments that have shaped the nation’s identity. From the westward expansion and the pioneering spirit of the frontier to the industrial revolution and the rise of American economic power, the United States has often been viewed as a land of opportunity and innovation.

The Founding Fathers, in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, articulated a vision of a new nation founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, and individual rights. Their belief in the inherent dignity and equality of all people, as well as their commitment to limited government and the rule of law, set the United States apart from other nations of the time.

Moreover, the Founding Fathers believed that the American experiment in self-government represented a radical departure from the monarchies and authoritarian regimes that dominated the world stage. They saw America as a beacon of hope and a shining example of what a free and democratic society could achieve.

So where are we today? We have a government that appears, at times, not to represent the will of the people. We have societal and cultural forces working to dismantle the very essence of who we were as a nation. We have an educational system working diligently to undo the notion of exceptional successes in our young adults through ‘collectivism’ concepts. We have corporations that would prefer to hire based on DEI rather than excellence and proficiency. And these are just a few of the many forces working against our founding principles.

The dangers of complacency are real and must not be underestimated.

As the challenges we face become increasingly complex, we must guard against the temptation to become complacent, both nationally and locally.

Take, for instance, the turnout in Kootenai County’s last November election, where only 31 percent of eligible voters participated. Hardly an exceptional display, and certainly not a model to inspire future generations. The question is, “Why”?

I believe that the Kootenai voter turnout, or lack thereof, is just one example of laziness and a mindset that reeks of complacency. If one will not go to the ‘trouble’ to vote, then one will probably not take the time to investigate who is running for a seat on the local school board or a new commissioner.

Are we that distracted? Do we feel that powerless?

If we have been ensuing the various news outlets and information feeds, we should be aware that much of governmental leadership is untrustworthy and unethical, from the highest office in our land, to the numerous agencies. Have you been paying attention?

In 1816, in a letter to Virginia legislator Charles Yancey, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free … it expects what never was and never will be.” That statement is as true today as it was in 1816.

We, as citizens, cannot continually profess the ‘I didn’t know’ escape clause. Much of our activities are routine and we also have many distractions. I believe that Kootenai voters need a change of habit.

I energetically believe that genuine change begins at the grassroots level, which involves actively participating and staying informed. Instead of spending excessive time on smartphones or the internet, we should prioritize engaging with our fellow citizens.

Attending local municipal meetings, whether they pertain to city affairs, fire district matters, or community boards, is a crucial step in this process. It is imperative that we break free from our individual comfort zones, lest we risk succumbing to the collective apathy depicted in dystopian narratives like George Orwell’s 1984.

Today, we are challenged by a minority culture which professes that “wrong is now right and evil is now good.” There are numerous elements in our society that are executing the subversive tactics from the playbook Rules for Radicals, and they are winning.

There appears to be a continual attempt to dismantle all the principles that made our country a beacon of hope.

The challenges we have, whether in Washington DC, Boise, or Kootenai County, are numerous and so pervasive that we can envision our country teetering on the precipice of a decline in which we may not recover.

The good news is that throughout our storied history, our nation has weathered numerous trials and tribulations. From economic downturns to social upheavals and political crises, we have faced adversity head-on and emerged stronger than before.

Surviving these challenges requires active engagement from us. Let us not be discouraged and become complacent in our civic duties. Engage, participate, act, and vote.

In the year 2023, our nation welcomed 878,500 new naturalized citizens, legal immigrants from diverse corners of the globe. They embraced the unifying principles of America and accepted the responsibility that comes with US citizenship, including the duty to participate in elections.

Let us heed their example and desire and rekindle the flame of active citizenship, ensuring that the spirit of American exceptionalism burns bright for generations to come.

John Spencer is a former US Army Officer and Aviator with 26 years of service. He is a published author who currently sits on two Hayden commissions, volunteers at the Farragut shooting range as a Range Safety Officer, and enjoys the beauty of North Idaho with Marti, his wife of 30 years.