Let’s take it a step further: OUR Democracy’s bottom line must be its principles — not money or power.
Let’s frame it correctly though. OUR Democracy’s principles started off un-principled. We cut a deal with slavery. We accommodated it and it cost us dearly. We fought a Civil War because we compromised our principles. We failed at Reconstruction because of it. We failed to even live up to the claim that we’d fixed the problem by amending the Constitution. Slavery — and the compromises it caused — haunts this country every single day.
So — with that unfortunate caveat (and the additional caveat that we didn’t give women full rights and the vote at the start) — but with the knowledge that we are finally beginning to address slavery (and our institutional misogyny) with the gravity and purpose it deserves (reparations for slavery would be a good start) — our Democracy’s bottom line must be the Enlightenment-age principles that the founders aspired to — updated but not undermined.
There’s a reason why America became a beacon to the rest of the world. Something happened here that never happened before. A country was founded not on some dynastic claim but on a set of principles.
That’s the good news but it’s also the bad news.
Principles — as a foundation — are concrete. But they cannot breathe the same air as Money or Power. The instant principle gives in to either money or power — the principles die. Money and Power are that toxic to Principles.
What’s happened here, in America, is: We allowed our already compromised principles to be further compromised. We are living at the mercy of people who claim principle while exercising nothing but power given to them by money. There’s not a principle in sight. Hell — there’s not a principle in the same hemisphere.
So — how do we fix this? CAN we fix this?
I guess that’s our mission going forward — answer that question. For starters we’re going to have to clean house. We’re going to have to be brutally honest with ourselves — and why & how we got ourselves into this mess. Then we’re going to have to be brutally honest about what we can forgive and what we can’t. The “what we can’t” list is going to be long. It better be if we really intend to fix this.
Maybe that’s what it will take — brutal honesty with ourselves (individually too; it’s no fair always putting brutal honesty on the shoulders of some abstract “they”). We got slavery wrong, wrong, wrong. We need to do everything we can to fix it.. Reparations… killing of the electoral college… Owning up to and sectioning off the deep beam of racism that runs through this country.
Let’s own up to the sexism and misogyny too. We have to. It’s a matter of principle, right?
Living by your principles ain’t cheap. Be warned. Doing things the right way vs the expedient way is, by its nature, more expensive — in money and in time. While we may have fewer dollars in our pockets, we’ll be healthier (because regulations will have made our food, air, water safer) and happier (because when more people benefit from our system — even more people will benefit as a result — happiness grows exponentially). It’s just a fact of Life — nothing is free. Anything you think is free? You haven’t seen the hook yet.
When you live by your principles though, you insist on paying what’s fair to get what’s fair. You treat all people equally because all people are equal — so say your principles.
If America can get its bottom line back to where it belongs — away from Republican greed and power-lust — to our Democratic Principles — if we “CAN” — we’ll walk away battered and bruised but a better, stronger, MORE PRINCIPLED Democracy.
I have hope.