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Friday, August 27, 2010

Democracy as a Verb: An Action Word

We the people. This is a phrase we all know. Perhaps it’s because we were forced to memorize the preamble to the Constitution of the United States when we were in eighth grade or because we truly grasp the meaning, “We the People” has come to represent something every American holds dear: Freedom and Democracy. These things go hand in hand as our forefathers intended, freedom, democracy, and "We the People".

But have you thought about it? “We the People”. It’s just three words. But who are these people? You and me? Our parents? Maybe it includes everyone in California, or maybe just those who are old enough to vote. Is it everyone in the United States, or do we limit it to citizens? Are these people the ones who work 9-5 at minimum wage or make millions on Wall Street? Does our democracy represent us, if we truly are the people referenced in so simple a phrase?

I think in order to call ourselves a democracy, which we as US citizen do, it had better represent us. We ARE “THE PEOPLE”. And as the longest standing and largest democracy in an ever-shrinking world, we have a lot at stake. So in my interest, and your interest, and in the interest of all citizens of the world and “our posterity”, lets take a look at what exactly is going on here.

Democracy, as established by the Athenians centuries ago, is based on public participation. You have to care. I know with school and work and hangovers and exams and girlfriends and boyfriends and best friends and LIFE sometimes it’s hard to actually do something. But sometimes you have to step back and realize that just because your life is comfortable and you are provided for, not everyone in this world has that luxury. And good for you, you got lucky enough to be born into it. The revolutionaries who wrote “We the People” intended it to be so. But they also intended for you know something about politics, to know who’s running for what position in government and what their opinions are on key issues; they expect you to vote and not do it “because I always vote Democrat” but because you think Mr. Obama will fulfill his promises and bring the troops home and create universal healthcare. They expect you to make sure that who won actually won, and then hold them accountable for their actions as they represent you. Our founding fathers never intended for us to be so lazy.

Accountability. It’s a big word, but it’s meaning is even bigger. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. What our politicians do, whether it’s our town mayor or president of the United States, their actions directly represent us and we need to watch them and hold them accountable. To be honest, I don’t think that their decisions reflect our best interests anymore. Decisions are made with aims of military conquest and power and money for few. Look at the trends. The middle class is shrinking, and it’s the classic case of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer. So who’s benefiting? “We the People”? Our policies, internationally, domestically, economically, and militarily are no longer in our interest. Why is that? Where did we go wrong? Was it September 11th? That day, my dad had a meeting at 9:00 on the 53rd floor of the tower that fell at 9:03. Last minute his boss told him to stay at his office a block away for another meeting. It was the worst day of my life, but that doesn’t mean I want my phones tapped as allowed in the Patriot Act. That doesn’t mean that I think every Muslim entering the country should be searched, and I don’t think that the tragedy that took place justifies any of our monumental failures in the Middle East or our outrageous military budget derived from our taxes and my generation’s inherited debt. Nor does it justify the secrecy of where our money is going or where the prisoners of war we take end up. And in the end, the dwindling supply of oil we gain will choke us in our waste rather than raise us to the bar set by real democracy. Because the oil companies and multinational corporations will be the benefactors while the rest of us will pay for being so forgetful of our duties as citizens.

So then, back to our little phrase. “We the People”. Does this phrase then encompass those in other countries, since the United States is dictating more and more on the global scale? The United States has, after all, unilaterally started wars, trained foreign armies, supported rebellions, and contributed more than any other nation to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, all in the name of democracy. So are the people of Iraq and Afghanistan included in “We the People”? If they are to be included, then are the Sudanese, the Rwandans, the Koreans, and the Mexicans? Is there room for them in this three-word statement?

Before we can enlighten the world on the finer points of democracy and freedom, I think we need to get a few things straight ourselves. It’s a fine mess we’ve found ourselves in, but there’s a light at the end of every tunnel. We have the finest documents in the world, The Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence to back us up. So get involved. Read a newspaper or watch the news, but afterwards think critically, “is this bullshit or is this true? Whose opinion is it, and why would they hold that opinion? Is maybe some of this true, and some a bit embellished?” Think for yourselves and know what’s going on. We are the People, and if democracy and freedom are to exist then we need to act like we deserve it.

To register to vote here in California, click here and fill that shit out: https://www.sos.ca.gov/nvrc/fedform/

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