A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

March 21, 2007

An Inconvenient Dose of Democracy

Maggie’s Notebook, posted an article written by Jim Simpson about the troubles that An Inconvenient Truth filmaker, Al Gore has been running into with the inconsistencies of his positions and his own lifestyle.  This will not comment about those as they are becoming more well known, but the area it does shed light upon is the growth of accountability and the “need” government and the holders of powers now need to demonstrate based upon the wealth of information available to the people.

Knowledge is a good thing, and its a dangerous thing, particularly to those in power.  A knowledge about the factors which make up policy, or the decisions which were until now made behind the closed doors in the smoky backrooms of politicians now have the very real possibility of being opened up and having the wind of truth break through them.  This is true whether it involves public awareness of the practices of the aformentioned former VP, or the current probing of the activities of the Attorney General, much of which gained its impetus from the power of bloggers.  While this trend may hurt the toes of people we may admire and whose views we may support, the trend is a positive thing in our society as it will now cause government to act in an open and candid way to those who put them into power, the people.

One of the foundations of our form of government, participative democracy rests in our own Declaration of Independence.  Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.  As a people, we must never lose sight of that guiding principal.  It is that understanding that protects all of us from the sum of all free mankind’s fear, despotism.  Too often, it is seen as a sign of good citizenship to follow the holders of power and give them a sense of carte blanche to legislate and to bring into action by Executive power policies that negatively impact those who in a democracy have the final say, the people.  Al Gore, like President Bush is suffering at this time from inconvenient doses of democracy, and this is a healthy process even if it may cause pain.  Pain is a sure sign that one is alive, even if under duress.

Too often government has treated the citizenry as if they are the parents and we, the people, are the uninformed and unruly children, who must be fed truth in simplistic well crafted doses to protect us from ourself.  While there is a need for government to guard the nation’s well being, indeed that is a vital part of the Oath of Office, the danger for the citizenry, and in the end for the Republic, is that people remember their vital role in the maintainance of the balance of power between government and the governed.  At what point does the interests of national security outweigh the right and the need to know the issues facing our nation?  At what point does the term national security become a farce, if the prime element of participative democracy is stolen from the people by those who are elected into government office.  What type of national security is found in a government that would be duplicitous in its engagement of the truth to the people? 

This healthy dose of skepticism is not needed when the party of one’s affinity is not in power, but more when it is in power.  For in that time the human tendancy to let little incursions into the principals set forth by our Founding Fathers of self-governance, and the responsibility of the citizenry to be the protectors of democracy from their own government if needed, are at that their most urgent.  It is too easy to go with the flow, and let those we agree with in principal, run roughshod over the founding elements of freedom, which make this nation the great nation it has become.

This is not to say one must always agree with the critics, but one must be vigilant of ceding their responsibility as citizens to hold the government to heel, and to remind them, that the consent of the governed is the only moral authority that cedes power in our Republic, and if we hold our Declaration and Constitution to be true, the only basis of moral authority of government for mankind.  It is not improper for Americans to be distrustful of governments or institutions which would shackle others in bondage of servitude to an ideology other than the will of the people. 

If those in government would wish to govern over us, it would best be reminded that some Americans understand and value the history of our Republic.  This message needs to be broadcasted to the present Administration and to all of those who would follow in its wake in the ’08 elections.  Americans must never accept a view of blind obedience and doggerel submission to Legislative and Executive authority. The inconvenient dose of democracy handed to those in power by the free expression of dissent and the sharing of factual information does much to guarantee this nation will not disappear into the hell known as secret government.

12 Comments »

  1. Well said
    That is smth. that struck me with reactions to the start of the last war in Iraq. People were saying “Well, we weren’t really in favour of it, but now that we’re in it, we should support our president.” And I was going “Huh? I beg your pardon?” Many many people apparently do not realize that democracy means that the people of a country consciously abandon some of their power (e. g. the power to punish somebody who does you wrong) and put it into the hands of one or more representatives of their will. And, of course, if that representative does something with that power you do not approve of you should not support him, but take the power back.

    Comment by Karl H. Beckers — March 21, 2007 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  2. I agree, well said. My initial reaction was to get defensive, but after calming down, I agree.

    I also agree with Karl, EXCEPT, I think that you do have to support the established government UNTIL such a time as you can take the power back. The decision to invade Iraq was made by the current president and the previous congress. Now congress has changes (at least partially) and there is the opportunity to take it back.

    But how does a country “un-declare” war? It seems the founding fathers left this out. Only congress can declare war and the president is commander-in-chief. He gets to decide HOW we implement the war. But how do we “un-declare”?

    I believe the founding fathers never foresaw this type of war. Their idea was war in/for this country. The war would be over when it was won or lost. If it was won, we go on with our business. If it was lost, well the constitution wouldn’t be in force any more.

    So what would the founding fathers say about our involvement in a foreign war? When, in the past, has the US been involved in foreign wars? Iraq 1, Vietnam, Korea, WWII, WWI are the ones that immediately come to mind. Iraq 1 ended because the commander-in-chief (Bush 1) declared it over. Vietnam & Korea ended for the US when we pulled out (although we are still in Korea). WWII and WWI ended with a treaty.

    What will signal the end of Iraq II? Or, if Iraq is just a battle in the War on Terror (WOT), what will signal the end of WOT? If the answer is nothing, that it will never end, I fear the Constitution doesn’t handle this situation.

    Instead, we will see an ebb and flow as we have for the last several years. It will increase when the next 9/11-type attack occurs and decrease when people tire of fighting. I believe this war actaully started with the shooting down of a single helicopter in Somalia. It was at that time that the enemy saw a vulnerability and began to exploit it.

    Comment by Randy — March 21, 2007 @ 1:20 pm | Reply

  3. EXCEPT, I think that you do have to support the established government UNTIL such a time as you can take the power back.

    Of course, I did not mean to suggest you should violate the rules that are set for taking the power back. In the meantime, however, I think you can still voice your disapproval and should be able to do so without being called a defeatist. Or, you could ponder modifying the rules set for taking the power back and establishing more immediate means of influence on a government (as in place e. g. in Switzerland), though the downside might be making the government more prone to spikes in public opinion (which might give more opportunities for demagogues).

    I don’t believe this War on Terror started with anything terrorits did, because terrorists have been around for a very long time. What happened (as I understand it) was that terrorists (finally, one has to say) carried their warfare into the U. S. and that has been understood as a declaration of war. So, how do you end this kind of war which most closely resembles a guerilla war? Certainly not through a treaty, because who would be the ones to sign that treaty. Certainly not by eradicating all terrorists, because you don’t need a whole lot of them, and even if you eliminate all of them at one point in time, the right circumstances may bring up new ones. You can hardly separate all terrorists from the means by which they spread terror, because again you don’t need a lot. Technology has made it so easy to construct something which used at the right time in the right place can really make people feel terror.
    I think you are right in that it will never end completely (much like war has not disappeared from the face of the earth.) So, I suppose we will always have to be wary (which is incidentally where the word comes from.) But how do we get to a state where wariness will be enough? My personal belief is that the only way to achieve that is by showing the world that one is not a target worth of that kind of opposition. I’m not saying that is easy, and it can certainly only be more of a long-term strategy, but I can think of no other way that will keep new people from popping up and killing themselves along with a number of innocents.

    Comment by Karl H. Beckers — March 21, 2007 @ 2:20 pm | Reply

  4. It is so funny that Iraq is thought to be the premise of this post. It really is about remembering where power resides.

    Also, within our system of Federalism, the power of the people is funneled through Representatives, and so any policy which goes against the grain of the people, must be taken out on those who represent us.

    With regard to ending this war, the only way to do so would be to “defund”. I don’t see the current Congress as having the guts to do that, but maybe they will. I also would not support that action.

    The “War on Terror” is a euphemism. It will also likley be much like the Cold War, and will be a long protracted experience. However, that does not mean it is real. As long as terror didn’t hit us, we had a hands off attitude, but now this is not the case, and with the ability to cause massive damage at little collateral costs and operational costs, the terrorist have a great advantage. This war is radically different than the Cold War in that we had a basic premise of mutually assured destruction if the opponents our we went too far. The strategic plan of the Cold War was containment, and let the economic and libertarian deficiencies of Communism cause a self imposed death, by merely outwaiting and outspending the nations that followed this policy. The same strategy, almost like running “Four Corners” in the old NCAA can’t be applied anymore.

    A completely new situation calls for a new paradigm, and there will likley be many bumps in the road.

    Just remember, in a nation with democratic principals, the people have the power to enact policy.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 21, 2007 @ 8:39 pm | Reply

  5. While avoiceofeason’s post is not about the WOT, and I agree that is not the aim; in my mind, there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the WORLD that is not shaped by 9/11 and what went before it, not after it.

    U.S. Democracy is standing almost alone in this world, with much appreciation for Britain and Australia who have not deserted us. France, Germany and Russian have funded, one way or the other, Islamic terrorism, and may they never, never be capable of shaking-off the shame of how they let this country down, how they let their own people down, how they enabled terrorism with every mis-directed euro and ruble.

    Had Europe stood with us and not with Islamic dictators; had UN Resolutions been called due many years ago; had we not been naive after the USS Cole and the bombing of the Marine barracks – EVERYTHING would be different. There would be no need for the Patriot Act, maybe Sandy Berger would not have been compelled to steal national security documents and tape them to the bottom of a construction trailer; Congress would add their pork to a bill NOT designed to support the troops, and no one would be the wiser. Business as usual. Whatever! – so many “maybes.” On 9/11 we learned that “business” will not be “usual” for a very long time. Iraq or no-Iraq, Islam DOES HAVE business as usual.

    The people of this country can hold those in power accountable, and it is true, the people can work their magic at the ballot box. We can bring the troops home. Then there’s tomorrow’s dawn. The Hamas and Fatah-PLO charters will not change – unity government or not. Iran looms – ONLY because we the people, did not have the will to take care of business. We paid a lot of people to do it for us, but we know that really doesn’t work. Life is just too good in Washington D.C. and especially in that soverign entity, the United Nations.

    So, yes there would still be poverty, and we the people will demand that we, the United States of America, feed them and heal them…but there is not one single country to which we can send our money and not have it line the palms or pockets of the men in power where the poor and oppressed live. After all, the women and children are poor and oppressed because the men take away their food and security. We’re told that “life” means nothing in their quest for Allah, because they are poor and oppressed…after all. Not to mention the “other” benefit of martyrdom (someone else’s martyrdom – no martyrdom for the men in power).

    I hope this country plans to win at all cost, because there is no cost too great. Islam does not allow the Republic to make decisions, exercise its will, enact policy – and least of all, have a Constitution to refer to.

    Oh, and don’t forget, the King thought American was HIS country, not ours. Maybe we fought the 1st war on the King’s land, foreign soil – and not ours? Very confusing.

    Gosh, I feel so much better. Time for a cup of tea and a good night’s rest🙂

    Maggie
    Maggie’s Notebook

    Comment by Maggie M. Thornton — March 22, 2007 @ 3:08 am | Reply

  6. You can say I missed the whole point and my feelings won’t be hurt.

    Maggie
    Maggie’s Notebook

    Comment by Maggie M. Thornton — March 22, 2007 @ 3:11 am | Reply

  7. Maggie,
    Sometimes I just go with the flow, and lately the flow has been balancing security/Iraq/free speech.
    They just all rolled into one.

    I think I did this because I see in Islamo-facism everything opposite of the Bill of Rights. I just wanted to remind people what a unique opportunity we have in this country from a historical perspective.

    Comment by Avoiceofreason — March 22, 2007 @ 3:36 am | Reply

  8. Maggie,
    it is interesting to read how you can accuse Europe of funding Islamic terrorism, when we all know who funded the Taliban (so they could fight the USSR) or Saddam Hussein.
    Also, the cases where terrorism was successfully fought through military and economic means are far and few between. And AFAIK all of them (like the RAF in Germany) had not grown to a movement backed by a considerable part of the public. In Ireland this has never worked out, and the alternative path is still on the way. And, yes, you are right that Islamic states don’t grant their people the kind of freedom we would like their people to enjoy. Have you ever asked yourself why people tolerate that? It is not all just religious fanatism. It is a form of fascism where a group of people is bound together by externalizing their fear in a common enemy. As long as people do not realize that that supposed enemy is less hostile than their own leadership, this will not end. Then this is to a good measure not about reality, it is about how you make people feel about you.
    Now, I don’t claim to have a magic potion to achieve that, I’m just saying military actions can only play a small part in the solution.

    Comment by Karl H. Beckers — March 22, 2007 @ 7:50 am | Reply

  9. Jeff, first I want to thank you for the wonderful link back to me and to Jim’s article. Last night, that was my intention when I began posting. I think I went with the flow too.

    Your article was well said, well thought-out and it was correct. We are blessed that we can discuss a Republic, democracy, our Constitution, the people and our power. And I loved the “Inconvenient Democracy.”

    Karl, I accused the governments of some European countries of funding Islamic terrorism with the Oil for Food scam – and it was a scam before it was a scandal. There are other examples, but this was my reference – and so these leaders of the free world could not afford to support the US. They gambled that they could contain the US. They lost. We need to see to it that they stay the losers. Surely they are thinking about this because they well-know there will be a time each of these countries needs the US.

    As to military force not working, there are no other options, and we can see to it that it works – without nuclear. Ireland was Irish fighting Irish and it was truly a religious battle. Islam is a movement, a government and a religion of sorts. The movement is to conquer the world.

    No other nation has had a 9/ll. None of our wars have been 9/11’s. Everything is different now.

    The poor and the oppressed: In Iraq Saddam paid the men to be loyal to him. That’s the way it works. Make the people poor, then reward, then take away the reward. Then they are too poor to move on. When they can move on to Europe or here, then those pesky imams show up in the neighborhood and remind those enjoying their freedoms, that Allah is still watching and I will “tell on you.” Get thee to the Mosque on time.

    For the betterment of the entire world, we should stand for Israel and democracy there. A strong and free Israel, sitting there on it’s tiny sliver of land, can help Muslims have the courage to break free. First, though the mission of Islam must change. That will have to happen somewhere in the ME. All those surrounding Israel: that’s the place to start. Let the world stand for Israel and clean-up Islam. Let them worship how they will but we cannot abide their terrorism.

    Get the women and children out. No one wants to live under this tyranny and it’s folly to think that they do. The problem: no one can say what they feel because their man is standing by and he’s on a payroll somewhere. Better to sacrifice your children than to cross your man. Allah says so. Of course, we cannot get the women and children out.

    I have a wonderful husband. I’m not against men and especially in this great country, but Islamic men – I don’t know. They do not take care of their families. Islam is so terribly prideful.

    Thanks for the good discussion on very pertinent issues, and again, thank you for the link. Blogging is a wonderful thing because we can all take part.

    Maggie
    Maggie’s Notebook

    Comment by Maggie M. Thornton — March 22, 2007 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  10. No other nation has had a 9/ll. None of our wars have been 9/11’s. Everything is different now.

    This, I believe, is the root cause of a lot of misunderstanding. It is different, but different by degrees. My personal belief, but of course others may take a different view, is that whoever thinks he is unique, or his nation is unique, or anything happening to himself or his nation is unique and fundamentally different from what happened before, is not only wrong, but considering himself way too important.

    Comment by Karl H. Beckers — March 22, 2007 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  11. Historically you can argue both sides of the issue. Sadly, there are actions that our government has taken in the past, and perhaps even today that are certainly suspect to understanable criticism.

    At the time, the goal in funding the Taliban was because of the greater fight – the Cold War. We live in an imperfect world, and it is often not possible to see what fruits come forth from seeds that are sown.

    Having an ethical framework within a government structure is vital, and the role of citizenry towards that goal can’t be understated. The practice of strange political bedfellows predates the Taliban. One can argue that Stalin with regard to his despotism was no angel. However, the circumstances demanded that we cooperate with him, and often to our hurt and millions of others after the threat of Nazism had been quelled.

    A Polish General in WW2, shortly before Poland’s fall took a stoic view towards the war. No one enters war with wholly clean hands, and none ever leave it with bloodless hands. This is true. However, there are degrees of dirt, and while all sides may justify their actions, in this instance, I don’t feel our actions prior to 9/11 justified the actions of those people.

    Whether it is small of me, I choose not to forgive, nor to forget. It would be hardly wise to worry about levels of culpability when someone holds a knife to your throat. That is where I feel we find ourselves, not only as a nation, but as part of a greater civilization. I also don’t gloss over the mistakes of Western Civilization in history, but if you look at the full balance sheet, the excesses that we may have perpetrated, pale under the sheer inexhaustable excesses of certain other groups.

    Comment by avoiceofreason — March 23, 2007 @ 1:27 am | Reply

  12. I don’t feel our actions prior to 9/11 justified the actions of those people.

    To that I will always subscribe a hundred percent. There is absolutely nothing that can justify terrorism. I just think we should try to understand it. And from that understanding (which I don’t claim to have) we could well find that the solution may require a lot of change on the other side (potentially partly brought about by force), but we might find it could also require some change on our own end.

    Comment by Karl H. Beckers — March 23, 2007 @ 7:53 am | Reply


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