Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Nothing Less Than A New Birth of Democracy Will Do

The chance to make the Lamont victory the bell weather of a new birth of democracy cannot be allowed to pass not taken. The great unmentionable fact is that The People, the Democratic Voters of Connecticut, have chosen against the advice, the desire and even the blackmail of the party establishment to say, “No, we would like to hire someone else,”. The wisest of the Democratic establishment are beginning to see the light.

The rot at the heart of American life starts because we have strayed far from the best thing about the country, the only thing our politics has to offer the world, democracy. It has been replaced by selfishness and cynicism and the manufactured and consciously marketed opinion that democracy isn’t worth the effort, that there’s nothing that can be done to make government the servant of the People. At worst this selfish cynicism denies that the People are worth it, that we are and never can be more than individual predators swimming in a sea of urine, that the world is a toilet. The Rupert Murdoch view of life, in short.

Our history is not the glorious myth that we were taught by the typical history courses that most of us are wise enough to reject. Pious civic fiction can’t hold a candle to the truth, it can’t even hold our interest. Telling it deprives us of the knowledge of the mistakes we need to learn from, the only hope of doing better.

But the worst thing about the phonied up history presented by history textbooks and popular entertainment is that it leaves out the stories of imperfect and completely real people who act out of nobility of character, wisdom, self-less-ness and for the common good. In most cases, though not all, the best in American history was not done by politicians. It is certainly not embodied in the overwhelming majority of the deeply compromised and unfaithful servants who have lived in the White House.

The best thing about America is the People. The People with a capital letter. The trunk that sustains the “three branches”. The People - of, by and for whom the political offices are created and for whom the politicians serve - are the business of America.

No, not “business”. The relationships of the People among themselves and the bonds of trust that must exist between us and those who have been given the trust to act in our place can’t be reduced to transactional analysis. Abraham Lincoln, the greatest poet of American democracy didn’t approach the subject when he refered to the “mystic chords of memory”. Walt Whitman couldn’t contain it in that catalogue of his greatest poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed”. It isn’t reducible. It takes more than one general election by millions of Voters to express itself in part, and even then never in final and definitive form. It is a dynamic and imperfect thing that is as constantly changing as life is, spilling well outside of the bounds of government.

Without a deep sense of the unknowable greatness of what is encompassed by democracy the temptation is always to reduce it to a dangerously base formulation. Democracy is the collective will of the real, living People, it is a living thing. Democracy, like life, can be cheapened, thwarted and destroyed. It takes constant care and dedicated purpose to merely keep it alive. It cannot live when the People are debased and ignorant. Democracy, we now know, cannot be the expression of the passing fancies of people who are massively entertained, constantly tantalized. Democracy isn’t a consumer choice like what peanut butter you can “feel really good about”.

I can’t begin to tell you what I mean to on the subject. “Gracias a la Vida”, Violetta Parra’s farewell note to the world, ends, “ Thanks to life which has given me so much, Laughing and weeping, To mark good fortune from ruin, the materials that make up my song, and the song of you all which is the same song.”

You will have to help me on this one, my friends.

You are nuts.
No, just exhausted from the outburst of democracy in Connecticut last night. Though for a tired person that wasn't all that bad. Not like the time I misspelt Laura Nyro's name about six times running.
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Nevermind those ... other comments, olvlzl.

I was nearly in tears reading. I don't know what made me and you the kind of people who care about all the things you've just said so poignently and passionately, but here we are. We are not as many as we'd like, but we are here. And, this may just be one of those times when the flowers of democracy sprout ALL over the place and give us back our faith.

I hear you. Rather clumsy of speech myself, I couldn't have said it any better.

Thank you for your comment BirdGirl. Are you familiar with Violetta? She was a wonderful song writer from Chile. The Argentinian singer, Mercedes Sosa's singing of Gracias A la Vida is particularly moving.

I do get kind of emotional when it's about real democracy, not the pantomime of it that gets talked about in the media.
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