One of the blessings of living in a democratic society with a republican form of government is that the individual citizen has the option of direct participation in determining who will, or will not, represent us in positions of governmental authority. Many nations are not as fortunate as ours in being able to, individually, participate and enjoy the process of freely held electionsa process, I'm sorry to say, we too often dismiss as unworthy of the effort, or at least take for granted. As we move forward into the second decade of the 21st century, we would do well to take a moment to consider upon the rights, privileges, and responsibilities we possess, as voters, prior to the upcoming general election where we will make our individual and collective voices heard as to what we envision our future to be and who would be best qualified to lead us there.
Too often, we dismiss the whole process of elections. The fear of getting involved, of having to take a side makes it easy for us to just shrug it off as an interruption to those things we hold more important at the moment. We tire too easily of the sound-bite answers, vague promises, and posturing by the people we see on the screen who says they have a better way, ask for our votes and solicit us for our money without investing the time to take them at their words, or challenge them to explain their positions fully. Instead, we come up with excuses that echo voices around us with expressions like; "it's all rigged", "this person's no better than the last one", "it's not about us anymore", and the list goes on. And thus by doing so we satisfy the fear that what we say or do, or stand up for, will only alienate us or cause division so why "rock the boat?" Had our Founding Fathers felt this way, collectively, we'd singing "God Save The Queen" instead of "God Bless America!"
The true question we need to ask ourselves is not "why should we" but rather "why shouldn't we." Why shouldn't we expect those that run for elected office to be the best possible candidates from among ourselves? Why shouldn't we expect more than sound-bite answers and thoughtful responses to our questions and concerns? Why shouldn't we demand that our elected representatives represent the views of its constituency and be courageous in their advocacy of them? Why shouldn't we make our voices heard in the ballot box and beyond in all issues which affect us directly, and indirectly? Why shouldn't we?
Maybe it's because we have looked into the mirror of our representative government and are appalled at what we seeappalled to the point that we cannot bear at what we've become so we just turn away in the hope that someone else will do the work of restoration because it's just too ugly to bear, too messy to clean up, and that it's not our job.
Our democratic form of government is a unique experiment. The Founding Fathers knew this all too well from the beginning. Most of the scholars of their day, including some of the Founding Fathers themselves, did not expect our form of government to last, at the most, 50 to 60 years! So for this form of government, that was established some 230 + years ago, to still be in existence is not only a testament to their vision of a government tied to the will of the people, but to our taking ownership of the process of electing individuals to serve as our representatives.
Now I'm not going to tell you that the process of elections is perfect: it's not far from it. We live in an imperfect world and we are imperfect beings by design. Mistakes and errors (intentional or otherwise) have, can and will be made just as often, and as easily, as successes and just actions. And regardless of whether the person(s) we elect to public office, at all levels of government, are servant-minded or self-serving, we all have to live with the consequences. Unfortunately, when the worst of offenses happen, we tend to not only blame other persons and institutions, we also attempt to rationalize it away as just being politics-as-usual without giving any more thought to it by claiming "it's just the way things are." It is a sad state and a far cry from the way we, as a people, felt about the democratic process of electing government representatives and is reflective of a nation that has "given up" and left our responsibility in the hands of the few who choose to participatethey, the few who do, ARE now the majority!
Former President James Garfield put it very succinctly when in 1877 he said this:
Now more than ever the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerate ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. . . . [I]f the next centennial does not find us a great nation . . . it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation do not aid in controlling the political forces.
To live and operate in a democracy is not a job for someone else to do, it is our job. It is a daily endeavor which demands from all of us a relatively small portion of our time and effort so as to insure we can continue in this grand experiment we call America. We must be ever vigilant in order to insure that the form of government we enjoy and cherish, does not become some monstrous aberration of its former self that will have to be slain by future generations by violent means. So before we dismiss out of hand the whole process of elections and our role in it, we need to ask ourselves one simple question:
Is the character of our government, at all levels, reflective of who we are as a nation and as a people?
James T Robinson Jr
921 Mechanic St.