Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Heart Of Democracy Is You

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, just once in my lifetime, I could cast my ballot as a citizen with my head held high?

That I could vote with confidence that it was absolutely, positively being cast for a person who not only earned that vote completely with their strength of character and commitment to justice and liberty and everything that is working toward the best of working toward our "more perfect union?"

And that I could be assured that the candidate receiving my vote would also continue to earn it every day, striving to do better for the good of all?

What if we could all cast every vote on our ballots for such candidates, for every office?  We all need to be more involved in this experiment of citizen-run government we call the United States of America.  Not just for our sakes, but for all the generations to come.

This is OUR government.  For good or for ill, it reflects what we are asking of it, what we are demanding...and right now, it sure doesn't seem like we are demanding nearly enough from our elected officials or from ourselves.

To quote Bobby Kennedy's superb Day of Affirmation speech from 1966:
At the heart of that western freedom and democracy is the belief that the individual man, the child of God, is the touchstone of value, and all society, all groups, and states, exist for that person's benefit. Therefore the enlargement of liberty for individual human beings must be the supreme goal and the abiding practice of any western society.

The first element of this individual liberty is the freedom of speech; the right to express and communicate ideas, to set oneself apart from the dumb beasts of field and forest; the right to recall governments to their duties and obligations; above all, the right to affirm one's membership and allegiance to the body politic - to society - to the men with whom we share our land, our heritage and our children's future.

Hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the power to be heard - to share in the decisions of government which shape men's lives. Everything that makes man's lives worthwhile - family, work, education, a place to rear one's children and a place to rest one's head - all this depends on the decisions of government; all can be swept away by a government which does not heed the demands of its people, and I mean all of its people. Therefore, the essential humanity of man can be protected and preserved only where the government must answer - not just to the wealthy; not just to those of a particular religion, not just to those of a particular race; but to all of the people.

And even government by the consent of the governed, as in our own Constitution, must be limited in its power to act against its people: so that there may be no interference with the right to worship, but also no interference with the security of the home; no arbitrary imposition of pains or penalties on an ordinary citizen by officials high or low; no restriction on the freedom of men to seek education or to seek work or opportunity of any kind, so that each man may become all that he is capable of becoming.
Today, as you cast your ballots, think about what you could do, what we all could do, to make this nation a better one. As you think of ideas which takes us toward a more perfect union, share them, work on them, bring them to fruition...because we could all do with a little more active citizenship in this country, couldn't we?

I'll be taking The Peanut with me to vote this morning, as I do every election.  On the way to and from the polls we talk about voting and the responsibilities of active citizenship and about the importance of good governance. 

As she gets older, the questions and answers get deeper and more complex, much like life does.  She's beginning to see the shades of gray and the curve balls, which is a very good thing...what I would love for her to see is a leader worthy of the promise of her future on the ballot.  Some day, perhaps.

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