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Published On: Thu, Jul 4th, 2013

Independence Day, a day to remember just how messy Democracy can be

tahrir-square-celebration-8When the guys met to sign a declaration of autonomy from England on that hot July day in Philadelphia in 1776, I wonder if they could have foreseen how the words of the document would play out 237 years later.

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776 he wrote:

“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.”

For those of you who know the history of this wonderful country you know that it has had many ups and downs from good governance and bad governance, external wars and internal wars, good economy and bad economy to taking up noble causes and taking up of outrageously bad, bordering on evil, causes. In spite of and maybe in cause of these things the nation has survived. The USA has an equilibrium based in the character and good will of it’s people. Recent revelations of the abuses of the odious “Patriot Act” will even themselves out over time. Even silly laws passed by Congress or state legislatures when viewed in the light of day have a way of disappearing. Such is the nature of a messy democracy. We are a secular society not a religious society. No one religion should dictate the rule of law but decisions ought to be made in light of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. I can still be a good “patriotic” American if I choose to participate in helping to create this ethos even if it may be against my religious beliefs.

What is happening in Egypt is worth noting as a new member of this democracy club/experiment known as “self-rule.” A democratically elected president was over thrown by a military spurred on by the protests of millions of citizens. On the face of it this is not a good thing. Morsi was duly elected a year ago but because of his inaction to institute much need reforms, he is gone. Television stations run by his Muslim Brotherhood political party were closed down simply because they were accused of sowing divisions among Egyptians and inciting against secularists, liberals, Christians and Shiite Muslims with their hard-line rhetoric. (Sound familiar?)

The revolution must continue, so “we stop producing tyrants,” Judge Adly Mansour (the military installed interim president of Egypt) said. We here, as a country have been lucky so far, but for the exception of the Civil War, our transitions from leader to leader have been relatively benign. Sometimes our civil disobedience has helped to foment change to laws. But it has been a slow and agonizing process. If we disagree with one of our leaders we can have a “recall” election to try and remove him/her from representing us. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That action in and of itself is exercising our right to be heard. Our revolution as a country is never over. The democracy we nurture is never completely mature enough that we leave it alone. We are always trying to make it better, more inclusive and stronger. We may not agree with the President on all things as a country but he is still our (all of us) President. As a citizen I have a duly elected President, for good or bad and if I disagree I have a path of redress first and foremost that does not include the military. Over two centuries we have had many changes, some good some not so good, but we constantly move forward to form a more perfect union. Recent attempts to move us backwards will not hold. This self-governance movement is messy and far from perfect, but it is uniquely ours. We are a living, breathing democracy with all its beauty and warts. And the price of liberty is paying attention.

and so it goes…


About the Author

- A little song, a little dance, a little coffee down your pants... Many, many years in the classroom and now on my own. A chance to think about stuff and how it affects everyone, not just me. Now residing in the Czech Republic