BeingCitizens.org is an experiment, designed to explore the ways in which disparate political factions might come together to find common ground and to forge a better future, by cooperating constructively or by putting the principle of service ahead of the perceived value of one’s own factional interests. It is inconceivable to radicals, conspirators and hardliners, that such constructive cooperation could come to exist, but we believe it is possible.
“Independent voters want something other than the ideological equivalent of trench warfare. They want to see imaginative, heroic civics of the kind we’ve seen blooming across the landscape of Egyptian politics in 2011.” (see ‘Rise of the Revolutionary Moderate‘)
When BeingCitizens began, it was Independents of Principle, established to provide a forum for discourse that could speak to the broad, and often hidden, political center, where most people don’t have time for partisan rhetorical combat and where most citizens identify as independents. In 2011, when the people of Egypt flooded into Tahrir Square, we saw Christians standing guard to protect Muslims at prayer, as the protesters came under ferocious attack, showing Christian and Muslim leaders embracing and calling for an end to tyranny, showing well-to-do business executives joining young students and working-class strikers, women young and old, children and grandparents, secularists and religious parties, joining together to call for justice and democracy. The clarity and courage of that common purpose, in defense of human dignity and the right to self-determination, was the impetus for launching this publication.
Engagement does not guarantee the outcomes we aspire to. Tahrir Square has also come to show us that. But, without engagement, without that civic commitment, to stand together first as citizens, and then to work out policy together, we lose contact with the basic reality of what a free society is and must be.
The true political center is not a no-man’s land between right and left or between liberal and conservative; it’s something we are all a part of, and which has roots in all of our interactions. Human judgment, basic decency, the desire for independence, and the instinct to build the best home and the best future possible for those we care about: these are not ideologically driven behaviors; they are essential qualities of what we commonly call values. What we value is not an ideology; it is quality, liberty, relevance, legitimacy. Honoring this was the original mission of Independents of Principle, and holding to that open, non-partisan perspective will be central to BeingCitizens, as we move forward with periodic analyses of issues of consequence for human dignity, liberty and resilience.
Our thoughts, feelings, needs, and votes, are not pre-determined by ideological leaning. We have the freedom to choose, and we should retain that freedom, and demand it be recognized, so that we can enjoy the fruits of an engaged democracy.
If we believe it is possible, even necessary, to secure ourselves against the perils of a world in which arbitrary abuses threaten personal liberty; if we believe it is right to find common cause and to look for unity, even with those who think differently; if we believe democracy is better than dictatorship and dysfunction, then we need to learn that each human mind is independent in the political sense, free to think and to shape the world and to carve out a landscape in which what is dreamt in the best of ourselves may become possible.
At BeingCitizens, we will cultivate this dialogue, implicit in everything we do as a society, wherein we want to have meaningful, fruitful contact with those who hold other views. If we can see beyond barriers, across divides, and make new ground, then we can manifest this true political center, and make this principle the cornerstone of our democracy: that cooperation be celebrated as service, and that service be something of immediate worth and lasting value for all people, regardless of party or faction.