This is a bit of an unconventional Thanksgiving message, but dogged government watchdog John Marshall Lee raises a number of questions worth considering in this narrative about the role of citizens in the city.
I am personally most thankful for the privilege and blessings that are part of living in the United States for over 73 years and wish you, your family and friends additional blessings of this day as you gather in celebration. With my offered thankfulness, please allow me to share some thoughtfulness as well.
If you have listened during the last 12 months to public voices in the US, you know the air has been alive with utterances that would have shocked audiences in previous times. News from points around the world has been equally disturbing with governments trying to withstand capitulation to internal or external forces, larger national groupings undergoing member decisions to go it alone, and nature speaking real power to the “truths” that man has built on inadequate foundations causing much misery.
The onslaught of words has caused me to pause and reflect a good amount on where we, as citizens, seem to be and our potential in going forward. It has also caused me to seriously reflect on what is required today to be a “citizen of our world.” It is especially disturbing when one’s life is winding down to consider what it takes to be considered a “good citizen” in these times if a legacy of such nature is desired.
A good citizen will learn his own history reasonably well at least back to the time of the men and women with whom his grandparents lived. Trying to verify family stories, myths, rumors, etc. can be fun but also humbling and frustrating at times. What does that small arc of human history regarding those close to you reveal?
Next is a reflection on the personal assumptions of a life carefully held and respectfully pursued. What can you partially assess upon having reached certain seniority? How have I behaved as a citizen during my time in history? If I have read history more out of duty than for enjoyment until recently, what lessons can be learned or unlearned by digging into original documents of some age as well as contrary reporting of those same times? What makes sense in human terms? How deep does one dig for the truth? How does a person provide ‘voice’ to the truths discovered?
Have I voted regularly after being registered at an early age? More importantly, have I sought to know the story of candidates for whom I cast a ballot? Did I independently stay informed on the issues of my time and try to stay up to date with the positions of then current candidates? When I began working for a living, did I pay my fair tax burden regularly without fudging amounts, small or large, as well as fees and penalties that may have arrived at my door? Did I present myself for military or peace service and responsibly carry out my duty?
Have I sought to understand the “common good” as a concept and provided my own personal and active support? Through the years did I act in one or more pursuits independently and without personal profit motive with others on tasks that otherwise would not be addressed sufficiently?
Have I been a lifetime learner through books and all types of community participation? Have I lived a concern for the weakest or most vulnerable people in our society today? Have I been generous with my time, skills and treasure, at the same time not seeking public notice for such service? Have I affirmed others, encouraging them and providing thanks for those pursuing their “good citizen” responsibilities?
Did I form solid and reliable friendships in this service through the years? Have I as a “citizen” provided a model of such behavior and encouraged others to play the behavior in their life journey forward? Have I heard the call of the times and provided a response worthy of the call? Will I finish my days with a list of unmet goals and incomplete objectives to be carried on by others with whom I shared citizen responsibilities?
How about you? Our mutual legacies depend on each other reflecting and responding with actions. Time will tell.