This won’t surprise anyone I know personally, but I love to meet new people. I find it so interesting to hear about other people’s lives. And while not everyone I meet is thrilled by a friendly stranger, I’m always amazed by the interesting stories and things I learn from these new friends.
Inevitably, these conversations lead back to questions about my own life. When I explain that my profession involves working with politicians in Washington, D.C., and Nashville, I’m usually met by either exasperation or curiosity. Many in our country are frustrated by the increased polarization of our society along party lines. While those in Alabama may jokingly accept the reality of split allegiances in college football, all too many Americans are willingly retreating to their own political tribes. This is affecting interpersonal relationships at an alarming rate. And the result of this voluntary separation is increased hesitancy to engage with new or different people or ideas. Then that lack of engagement will breed decreased tolerance of different ideas. It’s a vicious cycle.
At the same time, others I meet are often surprised to hear my optimistic view of the political process. The popular Netflix show has given me the opportunity to say, “No, real life is NOT like ‘House of Cards!’” I love to tell others about the decent, hardworking people who make up the many levels of government. And with few exceptions, those public servants relish the opportunity to hear from constituents and members of the public.
While the current version of “House of Cards” is based on a British show of the same name, our founders looked elsewhere in organizing the structure of our legislative branch of government. They did not create a body that strictly represented nobility like the British House of Lords, where eligibility consisted solely of family lineage and social rank (though members of Parliament were elected from among the commoners). In the U.S., our House and Senate were both created to respond directly to the people — all of them.
This is what makes our representative republic the most successful attempt at democracy to ever exist. Whether it is your U.S. senator or your local county commissioner, the best way to influence elected officials is honest, forthright and respectful communication that reflects your views on the issue of the day. Modern technology has made that easier, but — still — nothing beats face-to-face communication.
As the Tennessee Legislature has begun its work for 2018, the organization I work for has provided a tool to keep you connected to your state elected officials. The 110th General Assembly app provides detailed contact information about your governor and members of the state Senate and House. Information is updated in real time, something that printed directories could never accomplish. And we are working on exciting new features that will roll out soon. Priced at only 99 cents, the app is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Your involvement in government is always important — when times are bad and even more so when times are good. I hope you take advantage of the responsibility you bear to be involved in our republic.
After all, our future is bright. At least, that’s what I told the nice lady sitting in seat 17B the last time I flew. I wonder why she put her earphones in when I asked her opinion on the effects of marginal tax rates on global economic activity?
Maybe I’ll stick to college football next time.
Flickr image by Rain0975