We’ve all heard the statement from folks trying to make change: “Get out and vote!” On the surface this makes sense; we’re part of a republic that at its fundamental level is governed by the people, but it has a ring of boring, doesn’t it? We’ve been trained by conditioning that voting just doesn’t help us as individuals, and the record would appear to be clear on this front. The funny thing is, this thought pattern is a self-replicating scenario in that if enough of us don’t vote, we’ll never get what we want. I’d love to have an answer for this problem—mandatory voting requirements, fines if you don’t vote, etc.—but the fact is we will never solve the problem of apathy for politics because of the way it was designed. It’s too divisive, and in a small town like ours, potentially damaging to relationships to communicate with each other on big national issues.

So, going forward, let’s focus on community and state politics. These issues matter more to our individual lives than whether a president has a foreign policy we agree with, whether we have a fighting majority in Congress or whether the corporate tax cut will filter down to the citizens of this country. The pursuit of progress—by which I mean the heroic quest for improvement—is relevant more than ever these days in Manchester as a city and Coffee County as a whole. There has, unfortunately, been a stagnation in our civic engagement with elected leaders over the years. We are at a point now where the body politic has largely tuned out elections and local politics because it will always be “business as usual” no matter what we say, a reference to the system of horse-trading and favors that pervades our governments.

Look, I can’t lie to you and say I don’t feel a bit sorry for the politicos that do the people’s work. If nobody shows up to their meetings or they’re listening to a select group of people for advice, of course they’re going to miss the true desires of the community! Instead, they’ll do what they think is best for the citizens and won’t hear about it until something goes sideways—which, inevitably, it will if politicians are not hearing from you directly, face-to-face.

Which brings me to another topic I’d like to explore here: truth. The concept is buried inside of our consciousness as a self-evident reality, yet is threatened in the digital age by marketing ploys, cunning people and the realities of the Internet. There’s so much discussion about truth these days you’d think we just discovered it! The truth is that truth is something you just know from experience and face-to-face interaction. We can make excuses for why it might get bent into something that resembles the truth but not quite but that’s missing the point. If you’re not following your heart and instincts for the truth, you’re doing it wrong. Trust your mind as an individual instead of listening to someone else tell you what’s right. Your judgment is correct from that first flash of understanding. Where we veer off track is if we’re persuaded to dwell on that judgment.

The urban environment has been on my mind lately and the aesthetics of the land, fairly or not, can be summarized by how our area is perceived from the outside. Things like wide open farmland, greenways, bike lanes, parks, lakes, junky cars in fields, front yard flea markets, crumbling façades, abandoned buildings, paint and tawdry signage are all things that inform the visual environment to a visitor on the way to somewhere else. The love of the land, the love of the place and pride in our identity has been regrettably tarnished by years of neglect of both engagement and the truth.

Accountability can be accomplished by active codes enforcement or at the ballot box, but more often, it’s what we can do for each other and accountability with ourselves that actually make a difference in our lives.