Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 21 May 2003 Issue
"Doris Haddock speaking to a voter rights meeting in Tallahassee, Florida on June 17, 2001"
The Monster at the Door
Born in 1910, I lived through 90 years of the previous century, with its two world wars and uncounted smaller conflicts, massacres, tortures and atrocities. Over one hundred million people died in those years due to the abuses of power that arose when governments became disconnected from the basic human values of their people.
Our imaginations are not dark enough or twisted enough to fully comprehend the mass horrors that have been perpetrated upon the people of the world -- men, women and little children. If we knew it all --remembered it all-- we could not draw another happy breath.
In America, we are more blessed. We have come to expect that our neighbors will not be rounded up en masse and shot. We have come to expect that we will not ourselves be dragged out of bed and sent away or slain by agents of our government -- though these things do happen, even here. While we may distrust an election or a party, we have --most of us-- not lost faith in the good intentions of our democracy.
We look around the world. We understand that it is the absolute power -- the force -- of institutions that allows atrocities, for force is the opposite of sensitivity and accommodation. Force is a monster, a man-eating, woman-eating, child-eating beast that we keep in check but never really kill. In America, our dear Constitution is the amulet we wear to preserve ourselves from its teeth.
Our Constitution gives us our democratic republic, which has as its intention the fragmentation of power, keeping the exercise of force as close as possible to the human scale, and letting its power accumulate only where absolutely necessary for the common good of the people. The parchment document of the Constitution is not enough -- we also require supportive institutions and sacred processes; we need these five things:
1. We need fair and accurate voting systems that we can trust beyond a shadow of doubt;
2. We need worthy candidates who represent our interests and values and who are free from entangling financial obligations to special interests;
3) We need a free press that takes as a sacred trust its duty to inform the citizenry on the great and small issues of the day, regardless of the popular appeal of those stories and regardless of the profitability of providing that coverage;
4) We must be an unhurried society, with each of us given the time and resources to be active citizens, not mere mice on corporate treadmills;
5) We must be an educated people, forever students of the vital issues before us, and also of the history, art and literature that shapes our human sensibilities and our civic and cultural values so that, as a self-governing people, we might govern ourselves well. Our schools must produce citizens. Our immigrant arrivals must be made into citizens, as well.
In many of these five areas, we are now in trouble. The stakes are very high, for the monster of force is never far from the door. It comes in quickly. If I told you that an unrepentant U.S. Navy seriously roughed up a Member of Congress because he was peacefully protesting, or that a building full of people who were making political puppets were summarily arrested and taken away, or that people walking calmly down the street near a political convention were arrested and brutalized for two weeks, what country would you think you were in? If I told you that I was arrested for calmly reciting the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Capitol building, and that I cried when the police tried to pull from my finger a wedding ring that had not been removed in sixty years, where would you think you were? All these things --and many more -- have happened under the American flag within the last twelve months.
If I told you that a man would be in the White House who lost the popular vote, and who won the electoral vote by virtue of one member of the Supreme Court, who is now promised the Chief Justiceship and who therefore suddenly canceled her plans to retire, what country would you think you had landed in?
It happens quickly and moves swiftly. It is nothing for the forces of raw power to discredit the proper law enforcement agencies and set up new ones, run by political cronies, and with prisons and police of their own to surpress and arrest those who dare protest. It is nothing for raw power to thumb its nose at the interests of world peace or the earth's environment for the sake of corporate expansion and political power. It is nothing for raw power to mistake the flowering of political ideas and dissent in democracy's garden as a dangerous tangle of garden plots and disloyalties. It can happen quickly. It can happen in America. Open your eyes.
It is up to a new generation of American patriots to preserve our dream of individual freedom -- to preserve our greatest open market: our open market of political ideas and of leadership opportunities. Nothing is more important than this work, as the history of the previous century shows us so clearly, written as it is in the blood of one hundred million people.
To those who died for democracy, we owe a sacred trust. For those who died for lack of democracy, we owe our efforts to make a better world, worthy of their memory. American democracy is worth a great deal of trouble and all our human strength.
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