A Republic – 11.0 Who can stop this and How? – Only You the Citizen
“Democracy is not a spectator sport”
The League of Women Voters
YOU THE PEOPLE, THAT’S WHO! The big question is, will you do it – or let ‘we the people’ do it? There’s that ‘we again, the one which let’s us off the hook. Someone else will do it – but do they?
You have to answer that but my guess, based on thousands of responses I have gotten all over this country is that you/they pretty much don’t, although you know you should. You put it off until tomorrow partly because of everyday pressures and partly because you really are unsure of what exactly you are supposed to do. Let me attack both of those to help get you to do your job, because it is critical to you, to your children, and to world history that you do it. Is that important enough? Don’t let it scare you though. Look at it as if you are going through an experience like when you left home as a teenager and had to make money and be responsible for yourself for the first time. Because that is pretty much all democracy is. It is humanity growing up and being responsible for themselves after centuries of having a Daddy or Mommy leader to care (and often not care) for them.
As I traveled around Washington when I worked there, watching the goings on there and asking myself who can stop this, I was led to a stark conclusion. The answer was me. This nation is built from the bottom up with the people at its root. All problems and all solutions stem from them. I guess Cicero was right when he said, “Within the character of the citizens lies the welfare of the republic”. You and I are responsible for this place. It was built for us. If we don’t take care of it, who will?
Most Americans realize this. I have talked to thousands of people about this and about 999 out of 1000 shake their heads and say, “your right, we have to do something”. There is that we again – and it works just like Aristotle said it would. We becomes they very easily. People realize they need to do their job as citizens but, in the end, leave it for some other part of the “we the people” to do it. It is sort of like a diet. You have every good intention to lose weight, BUT. But the kids, but the job, but the game, but the daily worries – it never gets done. That’s been the problem here. Almost everyone knows they have a responsibility to be good citizens but they don’t do it. The daily pressures cause them to put aside something they know they have to do until “tomorrow” – which never comes. At least with a diet we have to buy new clothes once in a while. When the pants/dress we want won’t fit us any more some of us get serious about the diet. Unfortunately, we don’t get to try on a new country very often. We can’t weigh the Congress on a scale and say, “Oops they just went over 200 lbs, time to put them on a diet”. There is no agreed to standard that we can refer to. So we don’t “get to it”. That is a formula for disaster if history is any guide. You and I need to get on our horse and do our critical job as citizens here or this nation won’t last.
So how hard is this job? What is the job description? It is pretty easy really. First, you & I need to see the whole government thing for what it is, a human system, built by humans to help them control themselves. Remember the previous chapter, government is there because humans are not perfect. It is, as George Washington said, “like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearsome master, never should it be left alone”. You & I need to think about our governments regularly, not as a boss, but as a troublesome servant. Trouble is most of us don’t think of ourselves as a boss with a servant. Let’s then think about how to deal with a troublesome servant.
You and I are the rich guys here. Some rich uncles, the Founders, left us this country. You and I own it. So it is kind of like owning a sports team. The successful owner, if I have watched enough sports, is one who doesn’t interfere too much. He/She picks the day to day on the field management team (coach, general manager, etc.) and sets general guidelines for them. Then they watch the general direction and success of the team. He/she doesn’t get into the day-to-day operation of the team. Yes maybe they make suggestions and set broad long term goals, but they don’t “micromanage”. The good ones are patient with the people they have picked to run the team. They sit back and enjoy themselves and go about their other jobs mostly. They evaluate the team every so often and take notes. Then at the end of the season they make decisions on which of their managers has performed well and which need to be replaced. Not hard but hugely responsible. That’s how the citizenship job is.
Here is the basic job description of American Citizen:
1. Participate in your local government as a partner, not a cynic.
2. Participate regularly, rationally and responsibly.
3. Elect good representatives and test them at the local level. Then re-elect the good ones to higher office and monitor their progress to see that they are up to the higher-level job and/or are not getting the “big head”.
Think about these things. Think about how often you watch your people. Think about how you interact with them. Do you react well to a boss who criticizes you all the time without offering any suggestions or help? Then don’t you do it as the boss of your community. Think about your hiring practices. Hire people who have good character AND capability. They have to have both. The first with no character will steal you blind, the next with no capability will spill soup on your friend’s lap at a dinner party. Then you have to watch them periodically. Look for changes in their behavior. Do they all of a sudden go out a lot more often and miss some chores? Maybe they have something going on the side? It may just be innocent and personal; it may be that they are working another job for someone else on your time. Whatever, you hired them to work for you. Make sure they are.
Some of them promise more than they can do. When they get the job you can see, if you watch, that they are simply not cutting it. Then you have to get rid of them at the next opportunity. – for their good as well as yours. If they commit a criminal act there are procedures to get rid of them immediately. Do whichever is right as you see it.
Speaking of what’s right let me list a few things I have learned around the world which are important for you to think about when trying to do what’s right as a democratic citizen.
Value Freedom – be careful about demanding too much safety and security. Make sure you strike a balance.
Think, don’t feel. This nation was founded on the idea that humans can rule themselves without some strong person doing their thinking for them – and then punishing those who don’t think like him or her. Our Founders set out to replace the dominator model of human government with a partnership model. They had faith in your ability to rule yourselves. You will tell history if they were right or wrong. Thinking and reason are a key to successfully governing yourselves. It is like the first apartment. It may not feel good to pay the bills, but you had better do it.
Understand the nature and value of yourself as a human being. You are more than an animal. You have a spirit. You are a spirit in a body, not a body with a spirit. You have a creator. You need to live up to your potential, not down to the lowest common denominator.
Understand the truth and nature of freedom. It is more than, “I can do whatever I want”. It is more like, “I am responsible for myself and need to work with my fellow rulers to make a good community for all, and ensure that good government exists for myself and my children”.
Make sure your representatives put the ideals of the nation first in making their decisions. The spirit is more important than the letter of the law here.
Remember that government exists to serve the People, not the other way around.
You are free to change your government and choose those who operate it. Don’t ever lose that right and use it responsibly. Remember, the first responsibility of a free people is to remain free. And you only get one shot, so watch your representatives closely. You can’t say, “Oops, we won’t do that again” after the Caesar takes power because then you will have lost this right. He/she will use what is now their power to keep it.
Intelligence is also needed in the people’s representatives particularly at the higher levels. Choose wisely or you will get stupid government.
Virtue and knowledge are needed in those who would elect them. How can you elect people of character and capability of you don’t know it in yourselves. You are a grown up now. Don’t wait for Mommy or Daddy to tell you to straighten up. Work on your humanity regularly. All people are all pretty bad but can get better if they work at it. If you want to know how you are doing look at your representatives. They are a reflection of you.
The police and military here must serve the ideals first, and not individuals or territory. No police states here. Here the citizens are primarily responsible for their own safety. Help your police keep you safe – not so much with new laws, but by helping out. The atmosphere of your community is not built by laws, but by your actions.
Ensure life long education for all people – good education. Education is necessary to rule yourselves. It is critical for a democracy to have a good education system to allow its rulers to learn how to be informed and think. Again think with your mind, not your feelings.
Along the same line, make rational not emotional decisions when voting. You can correct a mental mistake because it was clearly reasoned and documented. You can pick it apart when it proves wrong and do it better the next time. An emotional mistake is usually made quickly and without reason and so is hard to analyze and easy to make again – and usually is.
Watch your legal system too. Make sure there is equal justice under law. Other wise the all are created equal ideal becomes a joke.
The office is more important than the officeholder. A very critical concept in a nation of laws, not of people.
Build a system based on merit, not favoritism or heredity. This is why most of your forebears came here. Don’t lose this. Hereditary rulers can be just as real with or without a title. They have to have power just because they are somebody, not because they earned it. Make people earn your vote.
Your unity is more important than your differences. Don’t let the Parties turn you into partisans. Remember the answer to almost all of our problems can be framed into something 80% of you can agree with. Neither Party wants to do that. They need to retain their identities and go to extremes to do so.
God is of God. Religion is of man. The Founders separated religion and state, not God and state. Put all religions on an equal footing regardless of which one works for you. Remember they all have their human side. And while you’re at it remember the other spiritual principle behind the United States – If there is one God, there is one people. These principles are key to someday bringing peace to the world.
People are responsible for themselves and their relations with others. Rights equal responsibilities. Do you observe your responsibilities equally with your rights?