The Number 1 Way to Fuck Up Democracy.
Updated: Jan 13
What is a Democracy? According to Noah Webster's Dictionary of 1828:
DEMOCRACY, noun [Gr. People, and to possess, to govern.] Government by the People; a form of government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the People collectively or in which the People exercise the powers of legislation. Such was the government of Athens. (1)
Well, that's a fine definition. I'd call that the 4/20 definition; here's the 1/5: Power to the People. There is any number of nuanced, slightly different interpretations of this definition scattered about on the internet and in books around the world. Do you think that Webster's definition is an adequate qualification for the word Democracy? How does that differ from our shared American Democracy? Politically, America is – especially compared to other democracies – a rather conservative place with citizens enjoying a mostly private life. Economically, our Democracy is driven by capitalism. However, when it comes to our society, I doubt many of you would be shocked to learn:
less than half of U.S. adults (47%) could name all three branches of government; less than 1 in 4 people (24%) could name freedom of religion; and, over half of Americans (51%) continue to assert incorrectly that Facebook is required to let all Americans express themselves freely on its platform under the First Amendment. (2)
What the fuck do you do when half the Country doesn't understand the Country? That's what avoiding the conversations about politics, and religion will get you. Ignorance. What you believe begins with what you choose to feed your mind or not. The media that updates you, the books you read, the thought leaders you listen to, the definitions you adhere to, the images you see, the quotes you remember -- your entire worldview is painted stroke by stroke by every fucking sentence that draws in your mind.
It will either confirm your bias, change your mind, or be an outright rejection of thought. So, thank you kindly for taking the time to humor mine. Nary a one of you is obligated to heed my words beyond your own cranial colander. However, for what it is worth, I feel I've dedicated an effort towards learning earnestly, which is also a means for this cause, WARNO. I needed a platform to reject toxic everyday politics and to project future American prudence.
You don't know what you don't know. It is so hard for people to let go of the familiar. It is also easy for folks to live an entire life void of meaningful context. Ignorance is bliss in one sense because you avoid engaging in a pithy philosophical debate that requires one to defend their own beliefs. Ignorance is bliss in another sense because you don't have to carry the weight of the problems if you don't understand them.
Defending beliefs requires evidence that you learned more than a surface-level understanding. Learning what you believe requires a lot of time and effort. To go a step further and articulate what you learned coherently in a debate is an entirely different ball game. Most folks don't want to play. Evidently.
I reckon that's why the Golden Rule isn't frivolous. No one is going to change your mind. Only you will do that. No amount of unruly hatred, outrage, condemnation, stress, resentment, or name-calling will change that equation. The only real tools you have are two good ears. You must give folks dignity at no cost. You must take a moment to jump into their worldview with them and look around for things that sit well with both of you. You must figure out what the hell to do with what you can manage together productively. You must harmonize with each other's truth. I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as Program Coordinator for a community-building project with an organization called Millions of Conversations. I was asked to guest write on one of the Millions of Conversations' newsletters that addressed the topic of the Golden Rule, saying:
The one maxim which permeates spiritualities and religiosities in folks across multiple cultures, countries, and communities is a call to decency and respect with the ethic of reciprocity being, “the golden rule.” (3)
People forget that we're just clever apes. Folks forget we're all cousins. Red or yellow, black or white, we all have the same DNA type. If you get skin cancer in Croatia, Columbia, Congo, Cambodia, Canada, or Kentucky, the doctors have the same game plan. Who do you call when your Country has cancer? What do you do when your republic is sick? How do you change when things start to become a less perfect union?
“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.” (4)
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but I certainly don’t read the Preamble to the Constitution with thoughts of relevance for our modern society. The People were driven by a self-evident authority of self-governance to ordain and establish our Constitution.
Fifty-six "radicals" comprised the delegations from across the 13 North American British colonies to stand up for all British American colonial subjects and signed their names to a “Declaration of Independence.”
The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of the United States. The Continental Congress adopted the document on July 4, 1776, thus announcing a revolutionary break up. The United States of America was born into existence.
Father Article and Mother Abstract combined to create One Nation. A simple piece of paper and a shared confidence in wholly accepted constructs of self-evident principals. The assertion was for White Male Landowners to treat each other equally as dignified gentlemen with a shared responsibility to productively manage the State. To be clear: The One Nation at that time was a Nation of White Male Landowners. The United States of America was not a privilege extended to females, foreigners, or folks chained to the farms working to make the One Nation wealthy. One problem, though. The One Nation accidentally invented a Democracy where females, foreigners, or folks chained to the farms could obtain more rights for themselves. It turns out they made a document comparative to the Golden Rule and a system to implement it.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (5)
It took 93 years, countless lives, and a civil war for our dear Republic's Democratic engine to ignite past idle. But it fucking worked! On February 26, 1869, the 40th Congress of the United States of America passed the 15th Amendment to our Constitution the law was ratified on February 3, 1870, legally guaranteeing Black American men the right to vote.
We now hold these truths to be self-evident, that BLACK & WHITE men are created equal
Our Democratic engine was beginning to kick into gear. On June 4, 1919, the 66th Congress of the United States of America passed the 19th amendment. The new law was ratified on August 18, 1920, and legally guaranteed American women the right to vote.
We now hold these truths to be self-evident, that BLACK & WHITE MEN & WOMEN are created equal
Amid a decade of violence, war, political betrayal, and deceit, our Democratic Engine kept driving on at the speed of Freedom. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed The Civil Rights Act into law just a few hours after it was passed by the 88th Congress of the United States of America. This was hailed as one of the greatest legislative achievements in American history. The law prohibited segregation and discrimination in public businesses, required the integration of schools, and made employment prejudice illegal.
The speed of Freedom isn't slowing down, and the Democratic Engine isn't stopping. On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Obergefell v. Hodges. struck down bans on same-sex marriage across all states and required all states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses.
We now hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL PEOPLE are created equal
You are responsible for the Unions of your States. You are responsible at a local level, you are responsible at a state level, and you are responsible at a federal level. You are forever financially attached, and how you navigate society is derived entirely from it. I hate to break it to you, but your opinion on that fact is irrelevant. You are responsible for the unruly mess we're in. To think otherwise is factually incorrect. Perhaps you’re active in your community; perhaps you are not. Perhaps you go vote; maybe you haven’t yet.
Let me be explicitly clear the “always blame it on the other side” attitude is a damn dangerous game, and that’s why we’re in this mess. No, it isn't the other side's fault. It's the culpable citizen in the mirror. When an organization fails, who do you judge to be responsible for its failure?
The Employee or the Boss?
The Clerk or the Chairman?
The Soldier or the General?
The Teacher or the Principal?
The Servant or the Sovereign? The Politician or the People?
NEWSFLASH! YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS.
What are you going to do about it? Can you please take a second to let that sink in? It would be hella cool if you just had a moment to yourself and honestly and earnestly wrestled with that fact.
Goodness, take a couple of moments to reflect on understanding the scope of responsibility it means to be free. If you don't want to take responsibility for your Country, take a knee and swear fealty to a monarch or dictator.
Do you know the individual folks elected in your local government? Are you aware of their plans to help build safe communities and friendly neighbors? Or are they building a political landscape for them to make a profit or position themselves in a place of power? Do you know if they’re doing this for personal gain or duty to their Country and community?
If you were born in America, you lucked the fuck out. Most everyone else wasn't born in America. If you work for over a decade and don't cross at least $100,000 in earnings, something has gone unfathomably wrong. It turns out the collection of sentences and names inked in 1776 would be something wildly popular. The exact self-serving decisions that our forefathers in this Country made created a society that has amounted to accomplishments and achievements that are unbelievable. The United States of America is a hit song. But it isn't without its issues. The notion that our democracy would devolve into a duopoly with antinomies of two societal and two institutional deeply rooted in American political combatants vying for power isn't ideal. Divided We Fall. What can we do in 2023 to form a more perfect union? What's the number 1 Way to Fuck Up Democracy? Keep believing it isn't your responsibility.
Webster's Dictionary 1828, “AMERICAN DICTIONARY of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE. Definition of Democracy. 1828, accessed January 7, 2023, https://webstersdictionary1828.com/Quotes
Annenberg Public Policy Center, “Americans’ Civics Knowledge Drops on First Amendment and Branches of Government" After two years of considerable improvement, Americans’ knowledge of some basic facts about their government has fallen., September 13, 2022, accessed January 7, 2023, https://www.asc.upenn.edu/news-events/news/americans-civics-knowledge-drops-first-amendment-and-branches-government.
Gregory Daniel Collins, Jr., “A NOTE FROM DANIEL COLLINS" The Golden Rule in Practice., September 27, 2021, accessed January 8, 2023, https://mailchi.mp/millionsofconversations/a-new-national-dialogue-13690070?e=90d5bebeec.
Founding Fathers, “Preamble to the Constitution" The U.S. Constitution., July 4, 1776, accessed January 7, 2023, https://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/educational-resources/about-educational-outreach/activity-resources/us#:~:text=%22We%20the%20People%20of%20the,for%20the%20United%20States%20of.
Founding Fathers, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" The U.S. Constitution., July 4, 1776, accessed January 7, 2023, https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript