Like breathing, or the beating of our heart, democracy has been a constant in our lives in so many ways. But now they are telling us the American experiment is circling the drain.
It is not like we have not been warned. There have been signs. Some subtle, others not-so-nuanced and there are those calling for a civil war to settle our differences.
I weep at the very thought of it. I am angry that it is a tyranny of the minority engineering the demise of American democracy and sad it could happen on our watch.
Forming “a more perfect union” was never meant to be the goal, but rather a work in progress conducted by succeeding generations. Why are we being asked to give up on it now? More to the point, what will replace it?
Could Benjamin Franklin have been channeling Nostradamus when he said “We need a revolution every 200 years” because, as he put it, all governments become “corrupt” after two centuries. But where does he say those responsible for the corruption should be in charge of the do over?
Tax reformer Grover Norquist said it a different way when he still gloats about his goal for America’s government, which is to “shrink it to a size that can be dragged into the bathroom and drowned in the tub.”
Mr. Franklin has been quoted a lot in recent weeks as we await the outcome of the mid-term elections. But did he really recommend throwing the baby out with its bathwater as Mr. Norquist suggests?
The drowning metaphor is not just creepy, but it conjures the kind of mano a mano violence some see as our future and weapon of choice in dealing with our differences.
Don’t like someone’s bumper sticker? Key his car and punch his face.
Disagree with a statement someone says at a public meeting? Follow him or her home and set their house on fire.
We seem to have arrived at that point. Can and will we keep it or will a new civil war end it for good? What would a civil war in 2022 look like?
It’s already happening, according to political observer Bill Maher who says our 21st century version is a civil war without borders. And it is already underway as witnessed by the early morning home intrusion and hammer beating of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s husband.
The fourth century Roman emperor feared it too when he predicted “barbarians at the gates” of Rome. That happened here on Jan. 6, 2021, at the gates of our democracy. Unlike the Roman Empire, Washington D.C. still stands. The barbarians and Visigoths did not succeed here. At least not yet.
Good old quotable Ben Franklin also said, when he was asked what form of American government had been established, answered “It is a republic, but only if you can keep it.” Can we? Will we?
It’s hard to imagine an America without democracy. They are synonymous, our national state of mind and a way of life taken for granted by those born and raised under it. And longed for by those whose freedoms were not guaranteed by their place of birth.
The last of our quotable wordsmiths is U.S. President Andrew Shepherd, a character played by Michael Douglas in the 1995 film “The American President.”
It is a heart-pounding patriotic but oddly quaint speech, almost naïve, looking out over the current political divide.
Credit writer Aaron Sorkin for putting the following words in that fictional president’s mouth.
“America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag. The symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then you can stand up and sing about the land of the free.”
It seems appropriate to end this week’s ramblings with the Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times.” Like everything these days, there is an opposing viewpoint held by those who say the words are meant not as a prayer but as a curse. And so it goes.