By Billie Lafty
Even before the Democratic and Republican nominations for the 2016 United States presidential election were officially announced, tensions were high on both sides over the potential outcome. Now that the election has passed, an overwhelming cloud of fear and uncertainty has creeped its way across the states, resulting in panicked protests for those who fear what a Trump presidency will look like for the American people. In fact, fears are so high that according to USA Today, Canada’s immigration website did indeed crash on the night of the election due to increased traffic. While the idea of the website crashing did make people laugh across social media and even inspired some clever memes, the reality of the situation is actually quite tragic.
Regardless of the reason, the idea that citizens feel compelled to flee the country out of fear is something most people would have never associated with the United States. Although there is a lot of work to be done in the United States to ensure equal opportunities for all, the progress we have made over the past 100 years alone with the Civil Rights Movement, LGBT Movement, and women’s equality is a testament to the strength and resilience of the American people. While our president is certainly an important figure as the leader of our country, somewhere along the line in our nation’s history, we decided that the person elected into office would be our saving grace, making important decisions for us rather than with us.
With each election, we ask the same question of our candidates: Democrat or Republican? Over the years, we’ve seemed to flip-flop between these two parties, and every time we we’ve shifted the control, America has hit a reset button. One party represents a certain set of principles while the other party represents another. During this election, we saw just how serious this problem seems to be for the American people. Our heavy reliance on our leaders to determine how our country functions is a result of our negligence to take action and to make the understanding of governmental processes a priority. Our president is meant to be the voice of the American people, and that voice should never be limited to the citizens who happen to agree with his principles and ideas.
While the media may make self-education and unbiased research seem impossible, staying on top of the real issues and effectively voicing your opinion is possible and may not be as difficult as you think. Congress.gov provides the American people with easy access to legislation. By simply registering on their website and searching for a specific topic (i.e., equal pay), you can read the full text of legislation that is currently being considered by Congress, choose to receive alerts for that legislation, and even determine which committee within Congress owns that legislation. The website allows users to share legislation across social media, so getting the word out there is easy and will give you the opportunity to get others involved.
Another website that provides citizens with a valuable weapon is the House of Representatives website. This site makes finding a state representative within your district simple and will even direct you to your representative’s website so you can open a line of communication. Getting to know your representative is possibly one of the best tools that you can use to voice your opinion. Try to find out what committees they are a part of and when they are speaking publicly for opportunities to meet them in person. Encourage others to do the same, so your representative understands how passionate the citizens in your district are for certain topics, like female rights. While our state representatives are busy people, they are there for the people in their district and want to do everything in their power to be voted in again in the future. Repeatedly making yourself known and encouraging others within your community to do the same could foster a relationship that may result in some real change down the line.
Real change doesn’t happen overnight. Taking a stand and getting our hands dirty takes dedication, hard-work, and patience; however, by keeping the end game in mind and asking more of ourselves as American citizens, we could inspire others around us to do the same. Don’t let the leader that is chosen or the attitude of a neighbor scare you into fleeing the state. Change your resolve to get involved and make a difference. After all, leaders will come and go, but as history shows, the strength of the American people is something that is truly unflappable.
If you would like to learn more about following legislation on Congress.gov or locating your state representative, then take a moment to read through the guide below.
- Visit Congress.gov
- Select Sign In to begin creating your congress.gov account
- When the sign in screen appears, select Create an Account
- Complete the form and select Create an Account
- Once the form is completed, congress.gov will immediately generate an email to your inbox. Select the link that is generated by congress.gov to activate your account.
- Once your account is activated you can filter by current legislation to find anything being considered by Congress.
- Use the search field to filter by topics (i.e., pay gap)
- Use the dropdowns below the search field to produce 25, 50, 100, or 250 results per page; create an expanded or compact view; or sort by the following:
- Date of Introduction – Newest to Oldest
- Date of Introduction – Oldest to Newest
- Latest Action – Newest to Oldest
- Latest Action – Oldest to Newest
- Number – Ascending
- Number – Descending
- Law Number – Ascending
- Law Number – Descending
- Once the results have been sorted, select the bill for which you would like to receive alerts (i.e., S.2773).
- Select Text to read the selected bill, Get Alerts to receive email alerts about this bill, or Share/Save to share across social media
- Visit the House of Representatives website
- Enter your zip code and select Find Your Rep by Zip
- Continue searching with your zip code or enter your complete address
- Select your representative to be directed to your representative’s website