In the period following the passing and signing of the torture and detention bill by Congress and Bush, there have been several articles and statements which assert that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of democracy in America. It is an understandable sentiment in the wake of the most pernicious abrogation of responsibility by the legislative branch in modern history. After mere hours of debate - and over the objections of scholars, legislators, and practitioners - it became the law of the land to look the other way as our government agents torture; to allow indefinite detention of Americans without charges on a presidential whim; and to eviscerate responsibility for past crimes of prisoner abuse and military excess sanctioned by the Pentagon and the White House.
To despair at our collective inability to influence the president and our legislators away from their recklessly reflexive use of the awesome power of our nation's defenses is a perfectly natural response to the hijacking of the bulk of our sacrifices and contributions to government for Bush's manufactured, bloody misadventure in Iraq. Not since the U.S. aggression against Vietnam, and Nixon's obsession with 'winning the peace' by escalating our involvement to avoid the political appearance of defeat, have those in majority control of our government been so determined to keep our country yoked to a dangerously ill-conceived failure.
Through our citizen's faith, and in the trust we place in our representatives that they would be humbled to serve the will of the people, and by their good judgment lead, we have been betrayed by a ruling-class oligarchy which has perpetuated its role and influence in our governance; not by the quality of their service, but through the advantages of patronage and association. This republican administration is a reflection of that tiny percentage of the nation's citizens who have maintained their wealth and influence through the last century. Despite the persistent poverty of generations of Americans who work and struggle with no guarantee of success or survival, this same working-class of people routinely elevate these power-brokers to the cadre of the privileged few who would lord over their wealth in the offices of our government.
These preoccupied courts of equity that are the instruments of our democracy were, in their infancy, forced to bend to the will of the governed by war, and tempered by a compact in which a united people reluctantly bestowed the force of their lives and labor to a handful of managers. From that compact, a nation was born. And from that compact, generations of Americans would give their faith and their lifeblood to defend the principles and morality which cosseted every sacrifice of their freedom and well-being that they entrusted to those they elected, for the benefit and furtherance of the common good.
These same Americans would demand that those who profess to lead us would wield the power of our collective faith and struggle with a selfless spirit, and be humbled by the source of the awesome power that is effectively bequeathed to them with our vote.
The mischief is in a dwindling participation in the political process by the nation's disenfranchised majority who are too afraid, or too disillusioned to dislodge these monied usurpers, or too busy in their own struggle to involve themselves in a close examination of the deliberate tangle of legislation. It's in a cynical electorate who turns away from the political process and leaves the division of the product of our labor and sacrifice to those who have the least needs or merit.
The power for mischief is in a manipulated foreign policy which exploits the resources of the defenseless around the world for the benefit of a minority of industry leeches; in a trumped-up, bloody invasion of a sovereign country and in the theft of its oil and its resources, and in the occupation and auctioning of the vanquished country's industry away from its citizens.
The mischief's in the shackling of countless generations of Americans to a corporate agenda of U.S. world domination, supported by the perpetual sacrifice of the lives and blood of generations of our sons and daughters in a continuous world war for the furtherance and consolidation of their monied empire; at the expense of our lives and the product of our sacrifices; to our country's detriment, and to the instability and insecurity of the entire world.
We must care enough to involve ourselves in every instigation of democracy which confronts us. Our government is a reflection of everything we choose to neglect along with every cynical impulse we project. As Bill Clinton once said, "cynicism is a luxury."
Those in power who are motivated by greed will show up every day to collect their share, and ours as well. We cannot afford to turn away and let all of the negative influences have the floor to themselves. We have to come to grips with our individual responsibility to vigilance. We have to show up every day to make certain the government is representing all of the people; not just the corporate few who show up every day to collect our money. They will always fill the halls of Congress with their favors, bribes, and obstruction. As my old friend, Guy Washington used to say, "Good always leaves, but bad comes to stay."
"While the people retain their virtue and vigilance," Abraham Lincoln once said, "no administration, by any extreme of wickedness or folly, can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years."
Through our virtue and our vigilance we must continue to advocate and petition our government to work for peace - here in the United States and around the world - with our voices, with our written appeals and protests, and with our actions. Through our virtue and our vigilance we must keep ourselves informed about those issues and concerns which we entrust to the bidding of those in Congress; and we must thoroughly involve ourselves in the process of resolving those issues and concerns in tandem with our legislators by challenging ourselves to read, watch and listen; with a respect and a desire for understanding of differing views and opinions in our deliberation and debate.
Through our virtue and our vigilance we must, in our respect for democracy, value and protect the right to vote. With our full participation in the voting process - before, during, and after - we promote respect for our nation and each other, and help ensure an equal chance for representation for all of our citizens in the deliberations of our government. Our vote is the instrument of our collective conscience and our warrant to the realization of our freedom, our liberty, and our well-being.
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