I am proud that our country was built on the ideals of self-rule and freedom. Phrases such as:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”, and “…with liberty and justice for al”
remind me of our heritage. All of these words touch me to my core. But recently when I was at the Lincoln Memorial reading Gettysburg address, I realized Lincoln’s ending sentence best captures the essence of democracy for me.
“… government of the people by the people and for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”
These words spoken as a memorial for so many that had given their lives to keep our country whole, truly capture the idealism of American democracy.
These words are an eloquent reminder that not only must a democratic government be responsive to the people, but also that the people are the government. It is my responsibility, your responsibility, every American’s responsibility, right and privilege to participate in governing our nation. Though this idealism makes me proud, it also makes me incredibly sad to see how far we have let go of it.
Today we shirk this responsibility, separating ourselves from governing. So much so, that when a president said “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem” the statement was very popular. But, if we changed that sentence using Lincoln’s ideal, the sentence would read “In this present crisis, we are not the solution to our problem, we are the problem.” My guess, this would have been received less enthusiastically, though it may be awful close to the truth. It has become far too easy for people to simply deride “government”, very common in fact. It is to the point where we believe “government” is simply terrible at everything. But we are supposed to live in a society where the governed are the government! Are we truly terrible at everything?
We are the government. It is our responsibility to inform ourselves, to inform our representatives, to go beyond rhetoric, spin and propaganda. We must decide what is worth investing in, and what is not. We must decide what programs to fund or not fund. And once we have decided what is worth investing in, we must pay for it. Or we must make certain the investment is worth having our children, and their children pay for it. We cannot simply sit and complain about government. We must vote, and we must write our representatives about issues. I know it takes time and effort to learn issues, and impossible to learn them all, but each of us must make this effort. However, that is simply the responsibility of participating in a democracy. If we do not, we will end up in a “media-ocity” where whoever is best at manipulating the media will decide for us.
A Madman has spoken…