Democracy in America

“Democracy had proved to be a disappointment to nearly everyone in Greek intellectual circles in the mid-4th century BC,” and it’s been pretty disappointing lately too. We talked about that in class last night.

One of us, speaking as a millennial, doesn’t vote and doesn’t know anyone who does.

Another, though, from my demographic, deplores low voter-turnout and the misbegotten efforts of conservatives to encourage it. When just 10% of the registered electorate actually bothers to participate, thus leveraging an outsized and often unjust influence, the sad undemocratic result may just be the “democracy we deserve.” 

Happily, many of us have managed to sustain a battered but unbroken democratic faith through all drumpf and travail. Indeed, “it would be nice to see Civics required as part of our elementary public education curriculum” – not the old-school civics that forces youngsters to mimic rote pledges of allegiance and memorize random names, dates, and meaningless facts, but the kind that reads and reflects on Dewey and Whitman, celebrates genuine democracy, and calls out its internal subverters. 
My favorite civics lesson ever came from the great white north of Northern Exposure‘s fictional Cicely, Alaska, pre-Palin, and its philosopher-dee-jay “Chris-in-the-morning”:

Image result for chris in the morningChris (on-air): My friends, today when I look out over Cicely, I see not a town, but a nation’s history written in miniature. Inscribed in the cracked pavement, reverberating from every passing flatbed. Today, every runny nose I see says “America” to me. We were outcasts, scum, the wretched debris of a hostile, aging world. But we came here, we paved roads, we built industries, powerful institutions… Of course, along the way, we exterminated untold indigenous cultures and enslaved generations of Africans. We basically stained our star-spangled banner with a host of sins that can never be washed clean. But today, we’re here to celebrate the glorious aspects of our past. A tribute to a nation of free people, the country that Whitman exalted. (reading)”The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives and legislators, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.” I’ve never been so proud to be a Cicelian. I must go out now and fill my lungs with the deep clean air of democracy. Northern Exposure 3.15, Democracy in America

Does that stained star-spangled banner yet wave o’er the land of the free? We’ll see. I’m not ready to toss in the towel just yet, ’tis a gift to be free.

5:45/5:39, 52/76, 7:48

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