It's Time for More Positive Civic Engagement

04/14/2017 09:23 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2017

Many Americans are gathering in cities all across the country on Saturday in protest of President Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. They are engaging is what has become our most common form of civic engagement - negative confrontation. On one hand, they are doing what we all should do in making their voices heard and expressing their points of view in the political arena. On the other hand, they are contributing to the cesspool of negativity that has become our modern American politics.

You don’t have to be some kind of metaphysical guru to know that negativity brings more negativity. We see it every day in our lives. Negative energy feeds on itself. All of this negativity in politics isn’t good for our country. It just brings more confrontation and negative results in our government.

The most prominent example of this is the election of President Trump. He is the ultimate product of our modern confrontation-style of politics. He has built his political career on the fighting, and he’s exactly what we get as a result of our political devolution into fighting for fighting’s sake. He feeds off of the fight. He loves it, and I’m sure he’s just tickled to death to see all of the protestors in the streets today. It gives him a great target in his us versus them political narrative, and it’s something for him to tweet about all day!

Many of us engage in that us versus them, confrontation-style of politics because we think it’s the only way to have an impact. After all, it’s what we see done every day. It’s become the new normal in our country, and it has resulted in a government that rarely produces any positive accomplishments.

The mass media fuels our fighting in their quest for ratings and website clicks. Their news-talk programming format and opinion writing has all but replaced straight journalism as our primary source of information about the world around us. Then our engagement with that information on social media personalizes and perpetuates the fighting in our own lives.

It’s not good for our country. It’s not good for us as individuals, either. It’s time for a national intervention, and some political self-help. It’s time for each of us as individuals to make the decision to choose positive civic engagement over negative confrontation.

It won’t be easy. The media and the two major political parties gain their money and power by fanning the flames of the fighting. Fortunately for us, we will ultimately be the decision makers in determining what kind of country we want. So let’s do it.

Let’s all start by doing more to articulate political positions and policy proposals that we are in favor of, instead of only making our voices heard when we are against something. Then make a real effort to relay that positive message to our elected representatives and other government policy makers.

One thing to remember, and it’s a big one, is that civic engagement is a lot more than politics and public policy. Not all of the solutions to our problems can be found in government. There are many ways we can work to improve the lives of all Americans.

Let’s take a step out of the political arena and do something good to make our local communities better, or do something that has a national impact. If you are motivated, like me, to help others, then do it. I recently signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer. Nobody does more to help people who need it than the American Red Cross!

American Red Cross

We don’t have to participate as a volunteer in an organized effort to help people. Individuals helping individuals is one way we can have the biggest impact. If each of us championed another person’s dream as our own, and helped them to realize it, then just think of the impact that would have. Nothing the government could do would help realize more “American Dreams” than that!

Maybe it’s as simple as making an introduction for someone who needs to meet the right person to help them start a small business. Maybe it’s watching your friend’s children once a week so they can take a class in order to further their career goals. There are so many things, big and small, we can do to help others overcome barriers to their success. That’s a big way we’ll ultimately make our country better, by improving the life of one American at a time.

Helping others through community volunteerism or on an individual basis will also do a lot to help diffuse the negativity of the political fight, because when we work together we are brought closer together on a personal level. We’ll see how much we have in common, and see that we all are really motivated by the same thing - to improve the lives of all Americans.

So, go ahead. Protest President Trump today, if you must. But remember to also take positive steps to help change the negativity in our politics. The bottomline is that the Trump Administration has a finite term of office, and our country will be here after he’s gone. We can work to improve all of our lives over the next four years by committing to finding more positive forms of civic engagement.

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