The Vocation of Citizenship

It is…a bromide to observe that most people pay little attention to politics. They have, or so the conventional wisdom goes, much better things to devote their precious time and limited energy to. Besides, politics is all to often as corrupt as it is frustrating. There is a some truth to such sentiments, but the cultivation of cynicism about politics and government is also a political strategy designed to undermine democracy. That dynamic is at work in so-called populist political movements across the globe. After all, one of the reasons Trump as elected in the first place was because too many Americans failed to pay attention to who he really was and what he was clearly capable of. Yes, we have obligations to family and community, and we must toil to keep a roof over our heads. But we also have obligations as citizens, and one of our most important duties is to pay attention to what our elected officials are up to. There should be nothing “Washington-centric” about time spent participating in the various tasks of self-government, the first of which is to stay relatively well informed. Citizenship is a much neglected, but essential vocation, and it is one we all share.

Paul Baumann, writing in Commonweal, October 2019.