How to restore American democracy: Part 1
America is in a constitutional crisis, but many do not know it. Imagine you’ve just arrived in a time machine from 25 or 50 years ago — you haven’t been living through all this. Our situation:
- We have an impeached president who did not go through the legal processes set up by the constitution.
- This impeached president indicates continually he is not following the U.S. Constitutional playbook: praising dictators; breaking relations with democratic allies; calling for military parades; praising vigilantism; bribing foreign powers to interfere in our elections; attempting to buy Greenland, and many more.
- We have rogue partisan loyalists emboldened by getting away with breaking the law when they changed the Constitution to an 8-justice court, and blocked the executive branch from exercising its constitutional right and duty, during the previous executive’s term.
- We have partisan adjudicators looking the other way while armed vigilante militias block roads to hospitals, harassing and preventing doctors and nurses from getting to work to save lives during a deadly pandemic.
- We have blatant calls by partisan loyalists to hinder the most basic institution of democracy: our vote. Even at the risk of human life.
- We have partisans calling to strategically destroy the United States Postal Service, for the sole purpose of preventing us from voting by mail because if every citizen were able to vote easily, they believe they would lose the election.
This could easily be a dystopian movie plot. Certainly our president appears to believe he is in a reality TV show. That the measure of his success is solely by ratings.
The United States survived a Civil War led by one of the greatest, most humble, selfless leaders the world has ever known. Today we are led by someone who wishes to be the greatest — the exact opposition of humble — and takes every opportunity to promote himself, his agenda, his family business. He is the exact opposite.
Seems dire and grim. But I have complete confidence we can turn this tide. How? Within the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence lies the answer, and the foundation of a new Declaration.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” —Declaration of Independence, 1776
“We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
Seven powerful words worth examining.
In the eyes of the founders, “We” meant everybody, all of the colonies. All the people. The founders were not like today’s partisans, satisfied with a simple majority. They knew the only way to win a war for freedom meant getting everyone on board.
Some will say that’s impossible in today’s political reality. Who says this? Partisans.
In 1776 there were no partisans. In fact, President Washington, in his Farewell Address, warned us to beware the rise of parties, that parties are the hotbed of corruption that will divide the nation.
We need to simply look in the mirror and recognize our power as individuals with sovereign rights and duties as citizen leaders. We need to stand tall and proud. We are the bosses. We hire our leaders with our vote, and we fire our leaders with our vote. And we have the power to remove from power any of our hired leaders who would take away our power — our vote — and grant themselves permanent power. By destroying our democracy.
We must recognize, as Washington advised us, that government itself is power. Government, he said, “is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”
We, as citizen leaders, wield this power. And we retain a responsibility to shape it, guide, and correct it as needed for ourselves and those who come after us.
The only way we can do this is by seeing our country the way the founders did: united. One people. That includes EVERYONE. No adult or child left behind. We must refuse to believe the partisans who say simple majority rule, without regard to minority, is ok.
We need to rise above party loyalty. We need to ask questions like: who am I? And who am I loyal to? We’re not following a flag of Democrats, or a flag of Republicans. We’re not following anybody — we are leaders, HOLDING a flag. One flag that has all the colors: red, and blue, and white. A flag that means something our fathers and mothers before us defined: Freedom. Courage. Liberty. Justice for all. Our fathers and mothers hoisted and held that flag, not for a party but for what it means. They fought for what it means. And they said to us: “Here, it’s your turn. Hold this, for what it means is valuable.”
That’s where we are at right now. It’s our turn to hold the flag. Not a piece of cloth on a stick. But its meaning. It’s our turn to take it to heart. To recognize that meaning is way bigger than any political party. And that it is in all of us holding that meaning, agreeing on its value, that we can re-unite.
Be WE again.
That is STEP 1: CARE ABOUT UNITY as the uncompromising goal. We do this by reclaiming our identities as independent citizen leaders who stand strong and lead, not dependent party loyalists who blindly follow.
What the founders did in 1776 we can do again today: not lose sight of the vision of unity — getting everyone on board. The founders cultivated trust, by understooding that trust is the currency of unity. How? By truly caring about those who did not agree with them.
They cared. They asked. They listened. They responded appropriately. That’s how to build trust. We need to practice these skills, ourselves, and care about those with whom we disagree.
STEP 2: CARE ABOUT and LISTEN TO ALL PEOPLE, particularly those with whom we disagree. Whether in the majority or the minority.
Seven signed, but six of the original 13 colonies — a minority — refused to sign the first draft of the Declaration.
Two elements the minority found offensive. First, the initial draft contained harsh language about the homeland. Many had close relatives back home and it felt disrespectful. So Jefferson toned down the language, made it more polite. More civil.
We sure could use a dose of that wisdom. We have created a society that tolerates and profits off of lies, vulgarity, insult, and disrespect. The antidote: honest civility, courtesy, and respect.
STEP 3: BE POLITE and RESPECTFUL. No longer tolerate name calling, profanity, lies.
We need to act like adults with children on this. Be like a teacher in a classroom. Ignore the bad behavior, praise the good. When you’re on social media and someone behaves poorly, simply disconnect. Withdraw attention. Do not interact. Do not correct. Just use the disconnect tool, which every social media platform has. Do not draw attention to your withdrawal of attention. Do it quietly. Then find those interacting civilly, politely, and praise that behavior. Thank them for it.
And listen to the points of view of friends with whom you disagree. Listen. Ask questions. Ask them why do they feel the way they do? What are they think? Listen. And respond politely. Be respectful. If Daryl Davis could respect and make friends with the head of the KKK, so can any of us.
The second objection the minority had in the original draft was the call for abolition of slavery. Focused intently on their goal to unite all of the people, the founders listened respectfully. And they compromised. That’s where the ludicrous “three-fifths of a person” came from. They all knew it was ridiculous.
They just knew that being unified was the priority. Because unity is power. They were Davids up against a Goliath. They believed what Christ and the many other forefathers taught: a house divided against itself cannot stand. They knew that enemies divide in order to conquire. They did not forget their principles; they simply saved that fight for another day. They prioritized. Later they made sure the the Constitution was editable. Changeable. Improvable.
Just like at home with your dear children, pick your battles wisely. Respect. Listen. Give a little. That’s how you build trust.
STEP 4: PRIORITIZE unity and BE WILLING TO COMPROMISE. Avoid loss of trust. Know we are not discarding issues of value, but saving it for later.
To renew our democracy we must leave the door open for growth and improvement. Once we are united, so much good can happen! For example, who in this country does not know our healthcare system is in terrible shape?
When we have unity, and peace, and the ability to sit around a table and talk, the ability to roll up our sleeves and work together again — like we used to — we can make things better. Just as the founders left abolition of slavery for another day in the future, we can look ahead to the day we work together to improve the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t perfect. When we’re functioning again, trusting one another again, listening, caring, we can all work together and improve it. Same with lots of issue.
For now, we have to build that trust bank account.
To hold something is to carry it. When you give something to someone and say, “would you hold this for me?” we mean don’t put it down. We don’t mean allow it to be damaged. Or lost.
Hold means keep it safe.
We, all the people, are to do this. Not our leaders. But us. Everyday citizens are all citizen leaders: leaders of ourselves.
That’s what George Washington was talking about. Be a leader of yourself. Not a blind loyalist of any party. This is what prior generations did, both BEFORE we had a country, and after it was formed. Remember “All In The Family”? When I was growing up, Americans were able to sit around a table and argue and discuss — without losing sight of who they were to one another. They didn’t stop loving each other over politics. They were able to rise above it.
To move towards unity we need need to hold onto these truths, for ourselves, and our children. And for our neighbors. Not just for a party. We’re not to allow a party to claim the flag and then assume our loyalty through them.
STEP 5: RECOGNIZE our own power to HOLD the truth. We don’t give it up to a party or group of partisans.
We’re holding not just any old truths. Truths determined not by government, governors, or other people.
We’re holding to an understanding of Truth from a higher source.
Not a man-made truth, but a man-confirmed Truth.
The evidence comes from the inside out. Truth as something good. Something of inherent value. Something worth holding on to. Something bigger than us, bigger than a country, or a time in history. Eternal. Outside of time-space.
Holding the transcendency of these truths is a foundational concept in our American democratic society. That we can find within us a Source of truth that is greater than this one life we’re living, that was, is, and always will be true, for our ancestors and for our descendants.
We’re holding these truths for them — our descendants.
The way to restore our Democracy is to focus on our own ability to distinguish these truths. When we do that, we stop being pawns and become citizen leaders.
TO BE SELF-EVIDENT
The easiest ways is to find truth is to contrast it lies and use our internal guidance system to distinguish what is true. In every day, encountering news and information, in ways little and big, care enough to stop and ask your inner higher self questions like:
“Is that true? Or is that a lie? What is the truth?”
“Is that a fact or an opinion? What are the facts?”
“What is true?”
Most ask in light of the goal:
“Does this truly move us towards or away from unity?”
For united we stand, divide we fall, as President Lincoln wisely said, quoting Christ.
STEP 6: Listen not to outside authority, but to inward authority, for self evidence of the answer.
To restore Democracy, we must hold on to the sanctity of these truths. To sanctify is to make something sacred. That means become aware of and stop tolerating what is not sacred: lies.
Particularly I say with the operation of democratic processes.
More to come in Part 2.
Meanwhile, meditate upon this statement. Meditate upon your parents, your grandparents, all who came before — what did this statement mean to them? Can you find evidence of the truth of it, within yourself? And do you hold it?