Focus on doing volunteer work, not politics

If you haven’t already done so, there’s a good chance that you’ll be participating in this year’s presidential election by voting for either Governor Mitt Romney or President Barack Obama.

I, however, will not be.

In fact, on Election Day, you’ll find me at the nearest cigar bar smoking a fat Cuban.

“Are you registered to vote?” “Hop in our golf cart and we’ll take you to the polls!” “Gotta Vote!” No thanks, I’d rather contribute to the community in a meaningful way.

I’ve been told that if I don’t vote for either of the two major party candidates, I subsequently lose my right to complain about the situation our nation currently finds itself in. It’s as if either Romney or Obama exclusively holds the recipe for cleaning up the mess.

Why do we place so much faith, so much trust and power, into one individual to fix even the problems within our own neighborhoods?

Although it sometimes seems that we treat them as such, politicians are not gods. The complexity of economies, of foreign affairs, of domestic issues far exceed the comprehension of one individual or even a group of them for that matter.

Let’s not forget that, however important our nation’s leaders are, the betterment of society starts with us.

We are largely conscious of what ails our communities, but we wrongly believe that we’re incapable of being the remedy ourselves.

The democratic process has made us lazy. We falsely assume that we can simply elect our problems away.

Voting is regarded as the civic duty; it’s hailed as the fundamental way in which we can participate in making the world a better place. Is the election as important as we’ve made it out to be?

And if it is, should it be as important as we’ve made it?

Billions of dollars slosh through the troughs of campaign finances while innocent people are killed by thugs in Chicago and the poorest go hungry in Detroit.

Money is thrown at us in the form of lies, slander and divisive politics when it could instead be flowing through soup kitchens, homeless shelters and youth programs — programs that actually improve our communities.

A good number of my friends devote much of their day-to-day lives superficially participating in the political process.

When I say superficial, I mean to say that they never delve into the deep, philosophical staples of modern policy issues. They do participate, however, but only through methods ranging from secretarial, “get-me-my-coffee” internships, to spending their weekends making phone calls, to riding around in golf carts with registration forms.

I wonder if these hours and resources spent here could be better employed in other areas of our lives. I receive emails (unsolicited, I might add) on a daily basis requesting donations.

I’d venture to guess that a small monetary gift to my local Goodwill would go to better effect than buying some campaign buttons.

Just the same, I’m relatively confident that a few hours spent assisting a local soup kitchen would be more beneficial for you and your community than a few hours spent calling people and interrupting them during their dinners. Just a guess.

This election season, try as hard as possible to avoid making politics a major method of social change.

There are countless other, more effective opportunities available. True enhancement of our country, like so many other things, starts at the grassroots level.

We ought not rely on figureheads miles away, in Washington, to take care of our problems for us. We should all take a certain level of responsibility for our communities and accomplish these things ourselves.

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