We can trace it back to ancient times, but, for our purposes, we need go back only about a century.
In the latter part of the 19th Century, out of Ohio a shrill, demanding voice. It complained that alcohol was the Demon Spirit and was responsible for poverty, broken homes, spousal abuse, and many other societal ills the nation was suffering at the time.
Little was done.
The voice of women like Carrie Nation continued, and, after a while, others joined her. The cry became a rumble, and then a chorus.
Still little was done. After all, they were only complaining women. No need to get excited.
Then, Ms. Nation and her cohorts began taking matters into their own hands -- bursting into bars and distilleries, destroying bottles, barrels, kegs and stills in their wake. They augmented this direct action with marches and demonstrations, growing eventually into thousands or participants.
At first, police and military broke up the demonstrations. The vandals were arrested and fines, but still they continued, vowing never to stop until they got their way. Finally, something had to be done. The voices had grown so strong and so persistent that they could not be ignored any longer, and so, the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, what has come to be known as the Volstead Act was passed and became the law of the land.
The story could be much the same for quite a few other cases: Women's Suffrage, Labor Unions, anti war protests -- the list can be much longer, I'm sure, but the story behind it is the same.
We the People, complain quite regularly that our elected officials do not listen to us. They ignore our complaints and our instructions and go on doing "business as usual."
One of the most prominent examples of this would be the debate on the so-called "Public Option" in Health Care Reform. Polls show that between 33% and 58% percent (depending on which poll you choose to believe) want such an option, but, to hear Washington talk about it, you would think that it is the bane of society. The idea that a government-run health care plan could be efficient and cost-effective is absurd, according to its detractors, who convenientlyignore the fact that the health care insurance they receive is not only free and totally comprehensive, but also government run, and it seems to work quite well, thank you.
Perhaps what they mean is that it's okay for them to have government-run programs but not us. I suppose that it is one of the great sacrifices they make on our behalf, submitting to such a terrible plan in service to their nation while protecting us from the experience.
Then, again, I don't hear anyone of them volunteering to give up their coverage in lieu of what they are proposing for us.
Anyway, I digress.
Or maybe not.
My point in all this is that we have come to think of our sort of democracy as a passive thing. We send emails and sign petitions; if we are really upset, we might even make a phone call -- but only if we have time to spare.
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