Published July 04. 2014 4:00AM
When the Founding Fathers signed their names to the Declaration of Independence from the British Crown, setting in motion a revolution that would lead to government obtianing its "powers from the consent of the governed," they not only provided a great gift to future generations, but an awesome responsibility.
It is a responsibility many Americans don't seem to take with much, if any, seriousness. It is the responsibility to be informed about the major policy decisions facing your country, state and city. It is a responsibility to cast a ballot each election. A responsibility to make that vote informed, not one based on the effectiveness of a 30-second attack advertisement or dictated by a single source of information.
Perhaps Americans could consider a new tradition. Each January 1, millions begin the New Year with resolutions to improve in some fashion - to eat better, exercise, lose weight, read more, adhere to religious obligations more faithfully, get organized, and the like. Of course, most will falter, though not all. But the very process has its benefits, a recognition that some things need improving is a first step to improving them.
With July 4 coming appropriately halfway through the year, why not make it a time for resolutions concerning our civic responsibilities.
Those who have tended to ignore politics altogether, either to the point of not voting or casting an unformed vote, could make a resolution to start digging into the issues, straying from the entertainment pages and websites to read some political news and, dare we suggest, even visit the Opinion section. Most fundamentally, they can make a resolution to register to vote.
The more informed, but highly partisan, might make a resolution to consider the views of the other side.
The Fox News viewer could resolve to switch, maybe twice a week, to MSNBC. Amidst the snickering, derision and eye rolls that act might entail, a conservative might find him or herself acknowledging the other side perhaps has a legitimate point or two.
Likewise, the MSNBC viewer could venture over to that anti-Obama, liberal-bashing channel and perhaps find - amidst their equally disdainful reactions - that some legitimate reports are presented about administration failures.
For a higher-brow dissertation of opposing policy views, it is always a good idea to find time to peruse the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Americans stand proud of their country, its freedoms and the soldiers sent to fight its wars, but many don't demonstrate through their actions that they take government by the people seriously.
A 2012 study by the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance ranked the United States 120th out of the 169 countries for which data exists on voter turnout. Only about six in 10 people who are eligible to vote participate in presidential elections, and the numbers get worse for state and local elections. The four who don't bother to vote are either unregistered or, if registered, just don't show up.
The excuses are plentiful - my vote won't make a difference, the politicians are controlled by special interests, it doesn't matter who wins, nothing changes. A Pew Research study asked people who are registered, but rarely vote, why - 76 percent said they don't know enough about the candidates and/or the issues.
Noting a statistic that would make suffragette cry, a recent poll found 63 percent of women under age 30 responded that they "don't care very much" which party wins control of Congress in November, and only 21 percent said they are certain to vote.
Most laughable was the California survey that found 28 percent of infrequent voters and 23 percent of those unregistered did not vote or register because they are too busy. Talk about your misplaced priorities.
Interestingly, those who sit on the sidelines or keep heads buried in the sand seem to recognize they should do better. Pew found that 93 percent of infrequent voters agreed that voting is an important part of being a good citizen and 81 percent of nonvoters agreed it is an important way to voice their opinions on issues that affect their families and communities.
It's time for some July 4th resolutions.