Wouldn’t it be great if the United States of America worked exactly as it was intended to work? In case you don’t know, America’s federal government is supposed to be organized for the purpose of creating a safe environment for all of its legal citizens to have an equal opportunity to grow and prosper without unjust interference from government forces, domestic land barons (the modern day equivalent of which we call large corporate interests) or foreign invaders. The mechanism consists of a fairly elected legislature to make laws to support and protect the country’s purpose, an elected president to insure the execution of all of the laws (all of which are consistent with a document we call the constitution) by force of arms if necessary, an independent judiciary mostly appointed by the elected presidents to settle disagreements in the interpretations of the laws and a free press to inform the legal citizens of all the events in government, industry and in their communities that they will need to know to insure that they will always be educated as to what serves their individual and collective interests. State and local governments pretty much follow the same model of organization as the federal government. For our system of democracy to work, all of the three basic institutions of government and the press must be independent of one another, so that if any of the four get out of line, the remaining three combined will check the one out of line. Obviously, that is not what’s happening in our world today. The question is, what is causing the system to breakdown and what must we do to fix it?
First of all, you have to look at the glue that holds all of this together. The citizens the government is designed to serve are the glue. The responsibility to see that it all works begins and ends with we the people. We elect the legislature that makes the laws and the president that executes them and appoints the judges. The system can’t work if we the people see ourselves as in competition with each other. We can have honest disagreements on how best to achieve the objectives we all seek. Objectives such as quality education for our children, clean air to breath and clean water to drink, adequate housing and transportation and proper application of the rule of law for a crime free environment. Some of us may feel that we can better achieve those objectives with government playing a more active role in the process and others may prefer a more passive role for government. The former are called Democrats, the latter Republicans. However, as countrymen, we get into trouble when we seek to force government to enact our personal preferences into the rule of law. I’m talking about things like how and where we worship, who we elect to be in relationship with and what we do with our bodies. Once that occurs, we divide government in a way that causes it to be something other than a democracy. Democracies are by their nature, designed to protect an individual’s freedom in those areas. Divided government is the prelude to anarchy and civil war.
One of the things the formers of the Constitution and the founders of these United States knew was absolute poison to any democratic form of government was religion. This is why they called for a strict separation of church and state. The reason for this is that in religion, there is no room for compromise and compromise is the essence of democracy. In religion, you are either a true believer or you’re not. The other problem with religion is that it can be used to justify limitless degrees of atrocity, brutality and crimes against humanity. There is no reasoning with a true believer. The application of religious beliefs into the rule of law is called tyranny. Democracy can rarely coexist with religious rule. I’m sure I don’t even need to point out examples of how this plays out in the world of today. Don’t misunderstand me here. I’m not saying that religious conviction cannot be a motivating factor and to a degree, have an influence in the laws that guide our government, but there is a difference between making religious doctrine the law of the land and having the law of the land influenced by religious doctrine.
What I’m getting at here is to say that regardless of how we may feel personally about any subject or issue, the protection of the integrity of the system (in our case democracy), must take priority over the issue or subject. We must confine demands of government to those boilerplate issues that we can all agree on as human beings although we may differ in opinion on how best to achieve those objectives. We all want clean air and water, we all want good schools and we all want safe neighborhoods. The system that protects all of that for us is our democracy. If we loose that, we loose everything and God only knows what we’ll have in its place.
I’d like to hear what everyone thinks about this so far before getting deeper into the discussion of what we need to do to make our country work the way I think we all want it to work. So far, I’ve touch on how I think we should be thinking collectively as Americans to make to make that happen. In part 2 of this discussion, I’d like to talk about what it is about us as individuals that keeps us from doing what’s necessary to get what we all want. I must warn you ahead of time that any discussion critical of us as individuals can be prickly and upsetting. However, I can promise you I’ll be just as hard on myself as on anyone else who may be tuned into the discussion.