Some confuse democracy with the freedom to do whatever they want regardless of its impact on society. But democracy is a concept that comes with responsibility and part of that responsibility is to do what is right for the greater good of humanity. Failure to respect that is a failure to understand the true meaning of democracy and will undoubtedly lead to its downfall.
Freedom comes with a price. Freedom without compassion, responsibility, and rational thinking is not freedom but the tool of the oppressor and the folly of the oppressed, and it will end with the fall of us all if we stand silent and don’t combat them.
This weekend marks 56 years since civil rights marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers on “Bloody Sunday.” Think about that. It has only been 56 years since African Americans literally had to put their lives on the line to vote. Now 56 years later, States around the country are introducing legislation that are transparent attempts at voter suppression. One can only imagine what the great John Lewis, who for the first time will not be among us on this day, would say to such blatant attempts to deny people their democratic right to vote and have their voices heard. Indeed it is a sad commentary on America.
Morpheus: This is our country Neo, everyone treated the same regardless of the color of their skin, gender, ethnic make-up, or religious belief. Individuals judged purely on the content of their character. Everyone has health care, and parents send their children to school unafraid they may become infected with the coronavirus or the victim of a mass shooting. Political leaders tell the truth and put the citizens’ well-being ahead of their agendas; corruption at the highest government levels is unheard of. There is no social or racial injustice. People walk down the street unafraid that they may be wrongfully targeted simply because of their skin color. Everyone is afforded the same opportunities regardless of their social, ethnic, or economic background. It seems too perfect, doesn’t it, Neo? You know something is not right, don’t you, Neo? You can feel it.
Neo: We’re living an illusion?
Neo: But why?
Morpheus: Is it so hard really to believe? Our democracy was designed to be where the power comes from the people, not a ruler or group of powerful individuals who would do whatever they want. It was founded on the belief that these truths are self-evident; all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Yet all that has always been an illusion, hasn’t it.
Neo: Are you saying our democracy has never been real?
Morpheus: What is real? How do you define real? If you’re talking about the people being the source of power or that all men are created equal, then real is simply a bunch of words written on a piece of paper. That America only exists in a series of oft-cited but rarely enacted words. A constitution to be held up to the rest of the world symbolizes the moral high ground we supposedly occupy. That America doesn’t exist, you’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.
This is the country as it exists today. Corruption at government’s highest levels. Blatant disregard for the constitution. The well-being and health of Americans were sacrificed for political gain. Racism and bigotry are alive and well and used by leaders to divide and conquer. Economic and social injustice roadblocks impede the pursuit of happiness for many. The few control the narrative and dictate policy to maintain their power and enrich their bank accounts—millions of citizens living in poverty and millions more without health insurance. Children forced to go to bed hungry, funding for education always under siege…. Welcome to the Desert of the Real Neo. Having seen all of this, I have come to realize the obviousness of the truth. Control. Democracy today is control, an illusion propagated by those in power to control the masses.
Neo: No. I don’t believe it. It’s not possible.
Morpheus: I didn’t say it would be easy, Neo. I just said it would be the truth.
The lust for power, greed, and corruption has been an intrinsic characteristic of human behavior since seemingly the beginning of our existence. While most of us make a conscious decision not to embrace these traits, there have always been those among us who do. Therefore it is logical to say that no single group should be considered immune to the possibility that one or more of these individuals lurks within its ranks. As such, no individual or individuals should be regarded as above reproach simply because of the group to which they belong. As citizens, it is our moral responsibility to foster an atmosphere that strengthens society’s capacity at large to point out corruption where it exists and build transparent and accountable systems of governance to ensure that the vulnerable are not taken advantage of. This is especially true when corruption is committed by those who are in power. In society, one would imagine as enlighten as we imagine ourselves to be that this would be an easy task, but alas, it is not. For as dangerous as those who abuse their power are, equally so are the individuals who persuade the masses with the narrative that to point out the corruption of any individual or group of individuals in a particular group is an attack on that group as a whole. While flawed, this narrative is nevertheless a useful tool in seizing on the average citizen’s prejudice and fears. When confronted with evidence of such corruption, they tend to dismiss it because it is an attack on and suggests an implausible degree of corruption within a group they respect as a whole.
It is fair to question the motive of the individuals who promote this narrative. It is apparent when one examines their talking points more closely that they are not concerned with society’s good but rather merely with promoting their agenda. But for what reason? What do these individuals have to gain? Is it fame, power, money, or something none of us could even begin to fathom? Whatever it may be as citizens, we must not allow their noise to cower us into silence. We must remain vigilant and continue to point out with the loudest voice possible corruption at every turn and our demand for justice. For if we do not, we doom society as a whole for as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:
In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age. We are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.
When we ask what was the day America died people will say 1/6/2021. The day a sitting U.S. President encouraged complete anarchy and his supporters obliged him.
We The People, three little words that the founding fathers deemed summed up what the grand experiment America was about to embark on. A country of self-government. Now we all know that from the time the founding fathers, slaveowners, and men who did not consider women equal or worthy of the full benefits of citizenships until today, that the concept of We The People has never truly lived up to its literal meaning in America. Nevertheless, it is the fundamental principle on which this country’s democracy is built on.
Today we have a blatant attempt by a percentage of the GOP to subvert that democracy, mainly because they have always believed We The People has always meant “we” not “them.” They are people who look, think, worship, and date different than them. They fear the change America is undergoing. After all, it does not benefit them because it is threatening to equal the playing field. The GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight Presidential elections, saved twice by the antiqued election college. As demographics change, they are losing their grip on some of the traditionally red states. The House is indeed more insulated due to gerrymandering; in many cases, their districts represent monolithic groups of voters. However, statewide and nationally, they know they are dying a slow death. As a result, they look to sow division among the people and cast doubt on election results. To tear down the very pillars of the democracy that they drape themselves in. They are not looking to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. They are looking to ensure that the way of life they have become accustomed to continues, regardless of how it impacts “those” people. They could never pledge to an America united under the banner of humanity irrespective of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. These GOP members attempting to undermine American democracy are no better than Benedict Arnold or the treasonous traitors who fired on Fort Sumpter. Traitors to a country that has provided them with the opportunity to hold such lofty seats of power through democratic elections. We must never forget their names as their actions should stain them forever.
WE THE PEOPLE
May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please. But as the opportunity to do what is right.
With great power comes great responsibility
Let’s be clear I do not write this to say American society has always done the right thing, understands its great responsibility, or that it has seen all of its citizens enjoyed freedom equally. However, for all its warts, this is still America, the land of the free, and the last four years, especially 2020, has shone a spotlight on the selfish and irresponsible behavior of a segment of America’s leaders and a percentage of its citizenry. Leadership’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the anti-maskers who follow them is the most glaring example. From the very beginning, President Trump downplayed the pandemic; it was clear to most that his end game was to downplay the pandemic not to keep the country calm as he claimed but an attempt to keep the stock market from falling. The reason for this? To try and ensure his re-election bid. As the year progressed and tens of thousands of Americans succumbed to the virus, Trump doubled down, taking no responsibility for his office’s response, openly mocking the wearing of masks, and inciting potential violence against state leaders who attempted to slow the spread of the virus as their state’s hospital systems became overwhelmed. Many GOP Congresspeople, Senators, Governors, Mayors, etc., followed suit despite the pandemic spreading like wildfire through their respective states. The loss of life took a back seat to their selfish serving agendas of maintaining their hold on power. A portion of Americans blindly followed them ignored the pleading of the medical world to wear a mask. They wrapped themselves in the American flag, shouted USA, USA, and claimed that being an American gives them the right to do as they please; this, of course, is a false belief, but even worse, it was based on the fact that refusing to wear a mask only impacts themselves, refusing to understand the obvious, it impacts anyone they come in contact with. One could argue that the entire Covid pandemic proved a large portion of America is not ready mentally to handle the freedom it enjoys because they have put their agendas ahead of what is right.
The second most glaring example is America’s current leadership attempt to undermine democracy by casting doubts and attempting to overturn the will of the people in the 2020 Presidental election. It was Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg that said
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long.
And while we are not literally at war, we each other; let us make no mistake that the Trump administration and the GOP have spent the last four years attempting to divide Americans culminating with their actions following the election. While it simple to say America will always endure, history has shown every empire has an expiration day. As Lincoln said in the Gettysburg address, America has survived all these years based on the principle, regardless of how literally it has been applied as a government of the people, by the people, for the people. And because of this, it shall not perish from the earth. It should go without saying that when Americans elect their leaders, they should expect to look to protect Americans and the democracy by which they were voted into the very seats of power they hold. Seemingly that is no longer the case. Politicians now look to protect themselves, even if that means consciously dividing the nation by sowing discontent and neglecting the very principles that this country is allegedly built on. They have no concept that when they took their oath of office, they were bestowed with great power, and with that power come great responsibility. They embrace the power while simultaneously discarding discard the responsibility it comes with. But make no mistake; it is not American leaders alone who have neglected their responsibility. The very people who vote them into their positions of power have turned a blind eye to corruption and politicians attempting to divide them and, in the case of the Presidential election, usurp the very democracy that they claim to respect so much, as long as it fits their particular view on society regardless if that view is good for the country as a whole. These Americans have proven that the concept of the power that comes with democracy, something so many in the world do not enjoy, has escaped them.
So, where do we go from here? Will we ever be able to come together as Americans? Will we ever be able to look at both sides of the coin and understand that our side is not always right, and that is OK. Will we ever, as people, hold our politicians accountable again. Will our politicians ever have the backbone to put the country ahead of their agendas again? If the Civil War lessons show us anything, we can overcome our differences and come together, at least to some extent, as one. But before we start to heal, we need to relearn what freedom truly means, the power that it holds, and the responsibility that comes with it.
Time will pass, and your legacy will be one of abject failure; now, staring at your last chance to stand up and be a leader, you turned your back on it. Your last stand forever to be defined as an act of weakness. Your delusions of grandeur extinguished by a power far greater than you, smothered by the voice of the people. One can only wonder when you look in the mirror if you ponder to yourself how your last stand could have been that of a man and not that of a weakling