As we celebrate Independence Day this year, let’s take a close look at what keeps us independent: the Constituion of the United States of America.
The First Amendment has been on my mind of late. At the last Homer City Council meeting you may have heard Mayor Beth Wythe take you to task if you’ve been critical of your elected officials.
“If you’re so concerned, step up. There are two seats open every year,” she said.
My reply is to speak up is to step up. The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Our freedom to speak and redress of grievances is more than a right, it’s a mandate — that in order to remain free, we must speak up. George Washington said, “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
Holding your elected and unelected officials accountable for their actions, statements and decisions is part of the political process; furthermore, it’s part of being a citizen of these United States.
You and I were left a gift by our forefathers, the Constitution. That gift requires maintenance; it requires action. To exercise only one portion of our freedom would be foolhardy. To elect a peer to represent you in
either Washington, D. C., or the Homer City Council chambers comes with it the obligation to hold your leaders accountable.
One side of the political process is to run and hold office, another side of the coin is to observe and speak out.
Use your voice, write letters and emails. Show up at meetings and speak your mind. Worry not that you’re going to ruffle feathers or hurt feelings. The stakes are too high, your responsibility too great to allow fear of criticism from the mayor or senator or president to keep you quiet.
You may not win your argument, you may lose your proposition; nevertheless, you can rest assured that you have been part of the process and never lose your voice.
Consider the corners of our earth that are not allowed to express their thoughts, speak out or engage with their “elected” leaders. Democracy is not autocracy or despotism. A free people is a vocal people.
On this Independence Day, hold your shoulders back, salute the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Never allow yourself to be silenced by your leaders. To speak up is to step up.
Chris Story is the owner-broker of Story Real Estate and the host of Alaska Matters, a radio show that airs every Tuesday on KGTL AM620.