SEPTEMBER 2004

                                                                DEMOCRACY

 

    Democracy \ n.  a form of government in which the supreme power rests with The People.  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 status quo.

    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.

    James Madison:  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 view.

    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.

    Thomas Jefferson: 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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