As the Riverside Township Republican Party committeeman, I and our executive board keep trying to get folks interested in politics and government.
But, we have to buck so many competing interests, it is hard to get people to come our to our regular meetings, even when we have excellent speakers who can talk on a variety of topics of the day. With two-income families, school and sports activities, the Internet, television and any number of other ways that folks in the township currently spend their time, it is ever more difficult to get public interest in government unless something controversial is brewing.
Most folks don’t know who constitutes their village government, let alone their township governments or school boards. We have been so chopped up legislatively that it is difficult for folks to know who is their state representative or senator, especially when these folks now come out of Chicago and are no longer in town neighbors.
Ask a person as to who is our congressman, and that, too, falls by the wayside. But then, watching the late night talk shows when people are asked and fail to know who the President of the United States is … well, I guess we cannot expect more knowledge locally.
Whether we are happy with it or not, government has an impact on our lives, a very strong and expensive impact. It does pay to stay somewhat informed, because bad things can happen when we are not. Our media help a bit by making information available, but we can never be sure that we are hearing all about an issue, if at all. The newspaper decides what it thinks is important, which may not be what we think is important.
I often hear the refrains that all politicians are alike, and that no one person can change things. Both of those refrains are myths. Not all politicians are alike and, yes, one person can change the course of history-if not alone, then one by one. Yes, we are flooded by more units of government than in any other state. If one looks at one’s tax bill and sees all the units of government we pay into, it is astounding, very hard to keep track.
By offering monthly meetings where we encourage anyone and everyone to come, we try to give as much public information as we can. We encourage free discussion, questions and answers, announcements.
During our Lincoln Day dinner, we try to get a speaker who has either seen or participated in history, so the public can get a first-hand account of something which affected the lives of all Americans. This year we will have a gentleman who was on the 57th floor of the World Trade Center when planes hijacked by terrorists were crashed into its buildings.
In past years we had people who were at the liberation of World War II concentration camps, the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, the making of historical documentaries. We invite parents to bring their children, as this is oral history in the making.
We talk of presidential primaries and local elections; we have had dramatizations of Teddy Roosevelt and Charles Dickens at Christmas.
As one person once told me, politics is the only game in town because, ultimately, everything will revolve around it whether we like it or not. We can make it palatable and even fun, certainly mind expanding if not boggling.
So, this is an open invitation for all to come to our meetings the third Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at the North Riverside Public Library, 2400 Desplaines Ave., where there is parking and parking across Desplaines Avenue at the North Riverside Commons.
Our township covers most of Riverside, part of North Riverside and the Hollywood area of Brookfield. Come out to see us, and when we have programs, bring the kids. Democracy only functions with an educated electorate.