Too often sharing the news feels like being a messenger of madness. Every day, foundational democratic institutions suffer sustained assault while a corrupt, extremist right-wing tyranny over Ohio politics and policy reigns.
As important as it is to chronicle the “first draft of history” by finding the facts and holding power to account, the American cultural zeitgeist demands more.
It demands a constructive vision for what we could do with these precious tools of our constitutional republic were we to cast off the self-destructive, man-made shackles of amoral self-interest, hate, and division holding us down.
The American Republic is an Enlightenment-era tribute to democratic self-governance, though it should always be remembered, as Molly Ivins said, that “it is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”
That’s what the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments did. That’s what the 19th Amendment did. That’s what child labor laws, worker rights, women’s rights, desegregation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and equal marriage rights all sought to help accomplish.
Liberty is not just the freedom to serve oneself and do whatever one likes: It’s the freedom of everyone in a society to exist and coexist with dignity, to fully participate in self-governance, to be protected equally under the law, to not be an indentured servant to industrialists working families to the bone, to have the same legal rights and opportunities afforded to everyone else.
That is the central theme of what democratic self-governance is supposed to achieve: the people’s interests in the form of representative governance.
In many cases — through the relentless striving and spilt blood of the common people and a handful of principled, conscientious leaders — we’ve taken great strides.
But America has always made progress despite a menacing weight threatening to pull it under water every high tide, much of the country gasping to breathe free.
This is the weight of our collective primitive past manifesting a dark impulse in some to suppress and subjugate others — to deny them their free and dignified existence — in order that these certain bad actors may empower and enrich themselves.
But imagine. Read more