THE DUTY OF A CITIZEN

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^ Mayor Walsh confronting serious matters of race in Boston schools : the duty of a citizen that he has taken the risk to address personally

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As we approach Christmas, and then the New Year, we all want to think good thoughts. We all want the coming year to enrich our lives. We all want to do a better job at our own work than we did this year. We all want something like happiness.

Anticipation generates its own betterments; in which feeling we bask right now as the days grow longer, the sunsets later, the sun higher in the sky shining on our heads rather than from beneath our chins. These things are real, and so, we hope, will our anticipations transpire.

I’m no exception to the generalization. I want my life to flourish, my body to glow, my soul to find its place in the pulse of time. Perhaps these wants will accomplish, but they cannot come sans price : my obligations as a citizen, for which my happiness in fair exchange is no robbery. So what in my opinion is the duty of a citizen ?

First, a citizen — of Boston in my case — is not a mere resident. A citizen is accorded many rights that set him or her apart from those who are not yet citizens. Above all, a citizen has the right to vote in all elections; and as we have just seen, elections really do matter.

There is more than that, however,. In my opinion, a citizen must participate in campaigns and speak up in debate about major societal issues. a citizen should speak and act with moral force : because political decisions have a moral component : the good of all. I do not speak of religion. Religion is a response to the fact of death; moral codes are a response to the necessities of life.

No moral code more sublime do I know of than rabbi Hillel’s famous dictum: “whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is whole law, the rest is commentary.”

Hillel took no exception for this group of people or that. Forb him, “fellow man” included all people. Thus it is for me. As a citizen, I must act so as not to hurt ANYONE. (Of course there is the criminal law exception. Leave that aside for the present discussion.) When I act politically, or speak up politically, I try to keep in mind that whatever policy or position I advocate, it must NOT BE HUIRTFUL to anyone. The political language adopted by Mr. trump is thus immoral as can be. He scapegoats entire nations, demonizes groups, mocks individuals. He is a divider who profits from division. It would be difficult to think of a public position more immoral than his.

That he honors no promises, benefits from lies, thinks it a virtue to degrade women, sells his supporters’ trust to line his pockets, surrenders the interests of the nation to the pleasure of our most serious enemy — these are the ingredients of an immorality gross and difficult ever to forgive. The duty of a citizen is to do exactly the opposite of what Mr. Trump does, and to say the precise opposite of what he says.

If we keep this in mind, that what Mr. Trump does or says, we should do or say the opposite, benefit may yet arise from his depravity. Yet the social price will be expensive, for as we figure out how to turn Mr. Trump’s mal-behavior around, his followers will hurt many people; they already have.

Lastly : Mr. Trump is not all. The responsibility for your life rests with you whether Mr. Trump exists or not. The sole voice to which you the citizen must listen is your own moral conscience. You know what is the right thing to do. So do it. The price may in fact be sharp. The compromised will scorn you, the self-absorbed won’t understand you; you’ll be called jerk, out of touch, naïve. I suppose that I am all of these. So will you be. No mind : do the right thing, publicly, when advocating political policy, by your fellow man, and you cannot do wrong ever. There’s a short phrase to sum up what I am trying to say : “country first.” In other words, community. We do not exist by ourselves. Freely our consciences embrace the bonds that bind us to each other, so that when we act politically, we give it our all, and we do so with the best interests of all of us first in mind, regardless of what party w may formally be registered in.

This is the duty of a citizen.

—- Mikje Freedberg / Here and Sphdere

 

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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