Red Level Courage Alert

By Kelley Bell Wenzlaff

“Courage is to fear as light is to darkness.”

The election is over. It is time to decompress and accept the will of the people and move forward. It is time to put an end to the fears of the past and find the hope of tomorrow, and do that with courage. Fear is a powerful motivator, but not a long term nor healthy motivator. The better call is for Courage.

In the words of the great depression era journalist Dorothy Thompson:

“Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.”

Courage is what this nation needs to feed our collective soul. Courage is our creed here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It is our birthright, and the home to which we must return.

We all know there are face tough times ahead, but the cure to our ills lies in our ability to work together to solve our problems, and to work hard. But don’t look to your leaders to do this for you, for that is not the nature of the political game.

No, our only hope to end this mudslinging mess and demand government accountability lies with the electorate. For when the people are aware of the back room games and demand right action, the politicians will do whatever it takes to keep their careers alive. If you want this congress and this president to change our course and develop sound bi-partisan solutions, it will only come from US.

You.

Fear may come from the top down, but the call for political courage rises from the bottom up. You have a job as a citizen, a call to duty, and an obligation to serve. It is up to you the voter to stay informed, and by that I do not mean subscribing to e-mail feeds from your party of choice or reading just one newspaper that leans in the direction you like. I mean true bi-partisan accountability.

Every law school student in the world knows the first rule of winning a debate is to make the best possible case for the other side before making your own. This is what voters need to do, but often don’t. We need to PAY ATTENTION and to understand what is going on.

But we don’t.

Admit it…when you voted, you selected at least one candidate you knew nothing about, didn’t you? Please take my advice: next time, just skip that one. Don’t blindly vote party ticket. Vote only what you know.

Have the courage to stay involved, even though it is tiresome.

Ben Franklin once said the future of our country depends on the will of “the enlightened electorate.” If you have complaints about the quality of your government, I suggest you first look at how you voted. How much truly bi-partisan research did you do in preparation for voting day? Were you fully “enlightened” before you went to the polls?  Did you have the courage to really look at making the best possible case for the other side before making your decision?

Here’s a test: If you feel great hate and mistrust for the other side, and feel only flag waving patriotism for your own, then you are a victim of partisan propaganda and are censoring yourself from a wealth of valuable information. If this describes you, your homework assignment for the next election is to widen the scope of your news sources. Only when you are able to see the good and bad to both sides, (and the many third party points of view as well) are you acting as a truly informed citizen, in the spirit our founders intended. Only then are you demonstrating the courage of a real American voter, and doing your duty within the spirit of our great Democratic Republic.

Now I know you are tired, and worn out from this last election cycle. We all are. But the job of a citizen is to be ever vigilant.

To withstand the constant tsunami of political negativity designed to embed our hearts with partisan fears, voters do need a certain amount of distance, and a break from the political game.

But don’t sit out too long. Keep an eye on the game at all times, and do so with a calculated mistrust for any partisan message. This independent streak is our nation’s backbone.  It gives us the courage as individuals to speak out and demand accountability.  It is the single act of one person standing up against city hall that gives others the same courage.

Citizen courage is not big heroic courage, but humble everyday courage.   Heroic courage involves those epic moments in life very few are ever called to answer, the type of courage of books and songs and legends, but everyday courage is a force just as powerful.  It moves us forward and creates real and lasting change in the world.  Everyday courage involves those small moments of quiet fortitude that never make the headlines, but shift people’s hearts.

It involves knowing your own values, and a willingness to speak up when others engage in wrong action.  It means saying no to misogyny, racism, and intolerance whenever and wherever we see it.   It means not laughing when someone makes a racist joke at work.  It means risking that job to ask why women do not earn equal pay for equal work.  It means doing your homework and speaking out against politicians or community leaders who engage in hate speech against minority groups.  It means getting involved, protecting our earth, being informed, and voting for the values you believe in.  It means using your influence within the groups you belong to speak out and be heard when you see something that is not right, even if you are just one small voice speaking out against a Goliath.

This world is not perfect, and courage is not always a matter of great deeds.  It is a matter of living in a state of right action each and every day.  It is humble and small, and earns no parades.  But it does bring change, and change is something we must measure in centuries, not decades.

It is something that grows from the small acts of many, not just the big acts of one.

All progress comes slowly, one lesson, one idea, one experience, at a time.  Your job is to just get out there and to do the very best you can each and every day.  To stand up for what you believe in and live with courage.  To speak without hesitation, and to never, ever doubt that one small act of courage can make a big difference over the span of time.   For it is the small collective acts of the many, which when combined, become the Courage of One Great Nation.

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President

Kelley Wenzlaff is a former small business owner who ran for the Ohio Legislature in 2008, earning the endorsement of actor and activist Ed Begley Jr. for her strong environmental platform. She is an active member of The League of Women Voters, is a member of The White House Project, and coordinates with The ODC Women’s Caucus to educate voters. She is the policy liaison for a U.S. congressional race, works as a freelance writer, and co-authored the book; MOM for The HOUSE, The Every Woman’s guide to Housekeeping and Politics. Her future aspirations include electing progressive minded women to office, environmental advocacy, support for women and minority owned businesses, and pursuit of a legal degree.

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