Democracy only as strong as people

By BenitaZepeda

In a time when many countries are fighting for basic rights and liberties, challenging their government and demanding democracy, many americans persist in ignoring struggles. Perhaps it’s easy for U.S. citizens to forget because we are far away from it all. What do we care? We already have freedom of speech, the right to vote and material luxuries to live and work for. We don’t need anything else, right?

Not quite. It’s unfortunate how comfortable society is with our privileges. We take our basic rights for granted. I’m no different either. With Mayor Richard M. Daley leaving office, we had the first mayoral election in 22 years that ensured a new mayor, and I didn’t vote. It’s not that I am apathetic because I also disagree with certain aspects of our government, but I’m guilty for not voicing my opinions and demanding change out on the streets. However, people all around the world protest, fight and get killed to have the same rights such as voting that we choose not to utilize.

The U.S. is far from perfect, but we have so much we should be thankful for. While people frequently complain about being overstressed, the high cost of a college education and the availability of health care, to name a few, we should seek solutions instead. Sure, we can express dissatisfaction about certain aspects of our government on the Internet through opinion pieces and blogs, but it won’t do any good unless we do something about it.

A strong democracy only functions if people are an active part of it. We shouldn’t get involved in other people’s battles, but shouldn’t we pay more attention to what’s happening around the world? I think we could learn a thing or two from the people standing up for what they believe in.

Our country’s generally apathetic viewpoint toward larger issues and tacit acceptance of problems with government is our fault. We can always pass the blame to insufficient media coverage or government transparency, but it only goes so far. While the media have a responsibility to inform us, people need to remember those newspapers, magazines and websites are ultimately a business. It’s possible everything we see on TV might not be true.

Look at how many countries protest things like tuition increases. France, Italy and England’s citizens are prime examples of people who won’t sit back and take whatever the government serves them. Here, we’re comfortable with how stable life is but if we take time off to protest, think of all the consequences we could face. We could get fired, lose our income and end up sacrificing our pretty apartments and furniture.

It is time to voice what we believe in. People have the power to change their situation, especially in numbers. Instead of staying behind computer screens or watching the news disapprovingly, voice your opinions, protest and fight for what you believe in. Easier said than done, yes, but look at Libya or Egypt. We’re a democracy, and if we, the people, are not satisfied, we can make a difference.