Civic Engagement

التصنيف : اراء حرة
By Dr.Faizeh Jaloudi
We must keep our voices strong, and not be silenced. Today I would like to talk about a few ways I believe will make our voices even louder and more effective. What I mean is, that I believe we need to step up our efforts in the democratic and civic process here at home.  The other side has effectively used their abilities of civic engagement to organize, lobby, persuade, rally, and finance policy makers in this country to an unquestionable level.  It is time that we start educating ourselves on how the democratic process in this country works, and use it to our advantage.
Many of us have emigrated here from countries where democracy does not exist. And while they are currently striving and fighting for democracy, we as their American counterparts, should step up our efforts and use our voices the right way, and lead by example. This includes involving ourselves in local, state, and national issues, voting, writing thoughtful articulate letters, fundraising, and becoming an indispensible part of our communities. We need to become the type of community that has earned and demands the respect of out elected officials. We need bargaining power. We cannot argue that we deserve democracy if we, here, have fallen behind in the process.
I have often heard of congressional candidates attending fundraisers, in which “the other side” heavily contributes to their campaigns and reelection, they are fed the propaganda. And in return theses congressional candidates feel eternally indebted to their donors for making their campaign aspirations a reality. There is no reason that we cannot get involved and make sure that our side is also heard.
Too often do I see activists who have such great passion for this issue of justice, however, much of the passion is not properly used. I’ve heard stories about young activist demonstrating by creating traffic on bridges and waving flags as a sign of protest, or ranting with foul language on social media. My friends, this is not the proper method of activism. We are trying to win the hearts and minds of people who are either uninformed or undecided on our issues, not alienate or intimidate. We cannot be the ones to argue in favor of justice and equality if we cannot demonstrate it ourselves. We cannot argue against racism if we use racist rhetoric ourselves.  We need to present the best possible appearance when standing up for our rights and dignity. We have truth and justice on our side, and we must be the ones to make that truth heard in the best light possible.
Now, to be clear, I am not endorsing the corruption or bribery that goes on in politics. I am merely advocating our participation in the process that allows us to be heard the loudest and most effective. I believe we need to educate ourselves in the most meaningful and articulate manor to become integral parts of our community, and to make sure that people understand our value to society and civic engagement.
To my Arab-American community: Let me be frank– we really need to work on our civic engagement. While the recent Gaza situation has forced us to be more active in many respects, and has allowed us to ramp up B.D.S., social media activism, and sharing our concerns with our friends  (which all have been relatively successful), we still fall short when it comes to voting and lobbying and persuading policy makers, political commentators, and officials of our issues. These things are important. I’ve heard from politicians themselves that they have no incentive to bring our issues to light. We don’t vote, we don’t contribute to elections, we don’t volunteer our time enough, and we don’t let our voices be heard on other important issues that face this country. The “other side”, on the other hand, does all of these things better than any other demographic in the country. Here’s an example: I know a young congressional candidate running for office. He seems relatively sympathetic to our issues. However, the “other side” recently decided to hold fundraisers for his campaign, (contributing close to $800,000), paid for him to take a trip to Israel to network with their officials, and he was fed the propaganda. If he wins a congressional seat, guess whom he is going to feel indebted to? His personal reasons for getting into politics probably don’t relate to foreign policy at all, but supporting Israel gives him a shot to live his dream as a young congressman from a minority background. And honestly, I can’t blame him. Think about it, if one of us was running for office with our issues being foreign policy related, and we were heavily supported by a group of active voters and financiers on an issue we don’t really care for, we would probably oblige, especially if it’s the “politically safe” thing to do.
We have to stop taking a nagging approach to politics and start taking an integrative one. We need to become reliable voters, consistent fundraisers, informed constituents, and an indispensable part of the American fabric. Based on our current standing as a constituency, if we all disappeared tomorrow, I’m willing to bet that America wouldn’t really miss us. For better or for worse, this is a part of democracy. We cannot sit around and say that our Middle Eastern nations deserve democracy, when we, here, as Arab-Americans still can’t get it right. We have to do our part. We have to change our image, and work harder for our goals. As a community, I am happy to say that we have been very successful in the business and education aspect in this country, however I believe it is time to take the next step and become more active in our civic societies. There are millions of us in this country, and it’s time for us to be properly represented.

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