Friday, September 7, 2012

An Obligation

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill 

     Even though this sad truism from Churchill is, of course, in reference to England, today's post probably won't contain much relevance for my lovely 21% foreign readership. Sorry chaps.

     When the Puritan settlers first knocked shores of New England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the world became a changed place and "a terrible beauty was born" to steal the words of Yeats. A beast had been let out of the cage that had the potential to rip out the literal and figurative lifeblood of Europe. But that beast was tamed. It was tamed slowly, painfully, and at severe cost of life. Europe watched the American experiment like a gladiatorial combat; with a morbid fascination to see who would win the bloody struggle. Would it be the nobly savage American lion with its matted fur and arrowhead-sharp claws? Or would it be the religious outcast from Holland with his sword of the spirit, shield of faith, and breastplate of righteousness? The crowd jeered. The colosseum echoed and thumbs turned down toward the Puritan. Others turned up. Most of the audience had the secret bloodlust desire to see the man wearing the belt of truth mauled, but the bleeding gladiator surprised them all. Not only did he pin down the lion, he made the lion roll over in submission.
     The first Puritans fulfilled John Winthrop's charge to do just that: to be that "shining city on a hill" and to baffle the expectations of all the onlookers. To this day, America has never stopped baffling its observers. It is the longest surviving and most successful experiment in democratic republicanism in history. America works because the gladiator didn't stop once he won the contest. He continued to tame the lion, passing that responsibility to his sons and grandsons.
     America passes from generation to the next, and each generation is responsible for keeping the lion tame. But as the founding fathers stipulated, that responsibility could not fall to one man alone lest the noble lion show his savage side devour him. The responsibility was instead given to each and every person who had the nerve to himself an American. Each generation would collectively make a choice to either let America grow savage and terrible, or to nurture the noble and beautiful side of America. While each American had the freedom to accept or reject the responsibility of the nation's future, it went beyond the level of freedom. It was an obligation. Each and every American would be held accountable for the country's decline if they chose not to speak out.
     The issue goes far beyond party lines. It is a matter of responsibility and national pride far more than it is a matter of choice. We must exercise the freedom, right, and responsibility to vote before that freedom vanishes as it did in the Roman Empire.
     As one who cannot yet vote, the best I can do is urge my readers who are of age to not drop the ball this coming election. Whomever you vote for, you certainly cannot afford to let your commitment to this country fall to the wayside. As I step down off of my soapbox, just remember that America's experiment in democracy has only defied all expectations because of citizens like you who have accepted the responsibility passed down to them. Let your voice be heard.