n. a form of government in
which the supreme power rests with
Our country's founders created the blueprints for
establishing and maintaining such a government, and today we tend to take
democracy for granted. Back in 1776 it was a hard sell. People were
used to being ruled by kings, queens, lords and lesser nobles. Many
weren't all that eager to rule themselves much less share that responsibility
with other colonists of questionable intelligence and inferior breeding.
Some were fighting to determine which aristocracy would rule: King George's
clique or the colonial aristocrats. More than a few colonists fought on
the side of the British because they were comfortable with their place in the
hierarchical scheme of things and were unwilling to risk any change in the
Of course, the war was won by the revolutionaries and our
infant democracy was born. It has survived because the right of each
citizen to share equally in political duty and privilege is protected by many
guarantees, especially that of free elections by which we choose those who
represent our points of view and speak for us. However, some founders
believed that equality in the power to govern should exist only among members of
the privileged class. They were opposed to the idea of one man, one vote
for commoners. The electoral college was a compromise. So
today, only voters in the swing states will decide which presidential candidate will win the
power to listen to and speak for the contributors who financed his campaign.
Special interests always hedge their bets. Lobbyists will ensure access to power
for their employers regardless of which man wins the race.
We seem to be united in the feeling that the current election is of unprecedented importance. What if our
collective gut instinct is trying to tell us that the future of democracy itself
is at stake? To be sure, the issues being "debated" are gravely important,
but it is democracy that is leaking from the big and little loopholes
created by elected officials as paybacks for campaign contributions and as
insurance for re-election. Most members of our House and Senate have both
the desire and the potential to be truly great statesmen, but they're stuck in
the money tar baby. One obvious example: The communications industry
contributes huge sums to campaigns for the purpose of influencing legislation.
The money is returned to the industry to pay for sound bites on public owned
airwaves that we rent to a few corporations for a token amount. That money
trail is not hard to follow. It's a loop, and John Q. Public is not in it.
John Adams: Liberty cannot be preserved without a
general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know; but
besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible,
divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean the
characters and conduct of their rulers.
We are about to hire a leader from a very short
list. Democracy requires, and we deserve to have complete resumes
from each contender. We must have access to accurate, unbiased, and in
context information about all candidates and all issues. Our sources
for such information must be totally independent and nonpartisan and must serve
all voters. One such source is the highly acclaimed Project Vote Smart.
Its many services are free. The Voter's Self-Defense Manual can be
obtained by calling 1-888-868-3762 or by downloading it from
www.vote-smart.org. This website
provides voters with a fact feast about most candidates running for local,
state, and national offices.
Knowledge will forever govern
ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves
with the power which knowledge gives.
Democracy cannot exist without free speech or
without open minds that demand ethical journalism that serves objectivity with
integrity. Closed minds that depend on prenatally installed or acquired
biases can grow heavy enough to sink a ship of state. Democracy depends on
the willingness of open minds to dialogue in search of the common good,
the best outcomes for all concerned in whatever situations we happen to find
ourselves. In contrast, closed minds compete in arguments which require
the acceptance of a predetermined, inflexible, my-way-or-the-highway point of
I am not a
member of a political party nor do I label myself an independent. In fact,
I consider myself interdependent on
everyone else who is in the same boat I'm in. That boat is democracy, the
American style of democracy, which means it is a boat big enough to hold
everybody. We need one another, paddling on both sides, to reach our
common ground which includes the belief in our innate equality, in liberty
for all, and in each individual's right to justice. We need a
captain who can coordinate our paddling and steer us always toward what must be
everyone's special interest--DEMOCRACY. No matter which captain we choose, we've all got some rough
rowing to do to maintain the course so clearly charted in the Freedom Documents
crafted by our Founding Fathers.
If the nation expects to be ignorant and
free...it expects what never was and never will be.
M. J. Sept. '04
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