Slowly and incrementally the principles of our democracy are eroding. Our government no longer feels like it’s “of the people, by the people, for the people,” unless those people have a lot of money, power and influence.
“The day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. When that day comes, we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation.” – President James Madison
Today, a presidential candidate and their supporters
can raise as much as a billion dollars to get elected. A seat in Congress can go for 40 million. Our forefathers warned us about the corrosive nature of power and influence. How can the President and members of Congress function as “statesmen” and put the best interest of the country above their own careers and political parties when they have such enormous debts to repay?
“However, [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” – George Washington, Farewell Address
What would Samuel Adams, John Hancock and Paul Revere ask of us if they could see the current state of America’s political system? Our society, our freedom to Tweet without fear of consequence, is a direct result of their bravery. How do we honor them when we watch silently as the principles they risked their lives for are weakened? Democracy doesn’t live on forever unprotected because we want it to, it is sustained and carried forward on our backs, and sometimes that weight is heavy.
“Those who expect to recap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” – Thomas Paine
We can do more than complain, however justifiably, about how much it hurts to lose our way, but we aren’t victims of our government. Those white buildings in Washington D.C. are just symbols of what we created for ourselves. We are all descendants of the brave men and women who fought to make America possible. It’s not the government’s government, it’s ours. If we tune out or put the burden of protecting it off onto our fellow man, we fail to honor their legacy and the privilege we have to live in a society that was founded on the principles of freedom.
If we allow cynicism to paralyze us, we all lose. If we become too distracted by things that don’t lift us up and carry democracy forward, we gain nothing. We decide what we are willing to sacrifice, that choice is not dictated to us by our government. We must never forget where we started and what those brave men did to get us here. They were revolutionaries who risked their lives to create a country based on freedom and justice.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We can’t allow our Constitution to become a relic. What it stands for is too important. Dark forces may try and dim its light, but we must keep it shining for the world to see. Uncounted numbers have risked their lives and braved seemingly insurmountable odds for the chance to live in our free society. We are a beacon of hope to people around the world. We have an obligation to keep democracy’s light shining for us and them.
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”- Emma Lazarus (November 2, 1883), The New Colossus, etched into the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty
Our democracy is sick, but not dead. Change will come only if we participate actively and often. We will decide the fate of our democracy, not our government.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”- Abraham Lincoln
What You Can Do
It’s not someone else’s sacrifice to make. It’s all of ours together.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – MLK, Jr.
1. Let your interest, frustration, outrage, curiosity drive you to participate. Send an email, Tweet, and call your representative in Congress.
2. Urge your Congress member to create and/or support campaign finance reform and any legislation that limits the influence of money in politics.
3. Stay informed about local and national issues that concern you.
4. Get your news from multiple established news outlets with a history of strong journalistic practices. Try not to rely solely on cable news (especially one network) or social media (Twitter and Facebook). Aggregate news apps like News360, Google News/Reader, Flipboard or Feedly can be an easy way to get your news from multiple sources on your phone. Put Google News (or whatever news outlet you like) on your homepage. Sign up for news alerts from established local and national newspapers.
4. Join organizations that share your point of view and sign up for their mailing list.
5. Donate to causes you care about, even if it’s $5.00.
6. Take it to the streets. Feel passionately about an issue, walk with your fellow man.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” – George Washington
Feature image courtesy of joeicak at iStock