“Government of the people, by the people, for the people..”
These words of Lincoln should stand tall and strong in the minds of Americans. Unfortunately, that is not true. Some will say any longer but I’m not sure just how much they ever truly sank in to the American consciousness.
Those words indicate that we, the people of this country are the true rulers of our own country. Yet too many in this country make reference to “our leader/s” when referring to elected officials. Elected officials are not our “leaders”. They are our employees. In voting, we hire them. If we are collectively unhappy with their job performance, the next election and sometimes even before that, we can fire them via recall elections or impeachment. Elections are really little more than performance reviews in which we determine as a group whether elected officials job performance merits their continued employment.
Consider the job title for them. Representatives. Not manager, not dictator, not supervisor. Representatives. Meaning they are supposed to be there to vocalize and act on what is best for our interests. Not the interests of their biggest donors. It is exceedingly rare that it works that way. This is what should be the part of Lincoln’s statement, “For the People”.
Merriam-Webster defines a congress as “a formal meeting of delegates for discussion and usually action on some question”. Discussion. Not argument. Meaning multiple sides should be represented in a rational manner. I typically refer to our legislative body as CONgress because too many members consider “con” to be the operative part of that word. The literal definition of the word from Latin means, “To act together”.
What amazes me is the fact that so many Americans believe elected officials are educated or endowed with some special knowledge or power. There is no special education, no specific qualifications to hold any office in our government. Any citizen of this country can run for elected office. If there were any special education necessary to hold office, that education should be not only available to all citizens but mandatory in basic education. Yet it has been decades since even Civics was required in our school system. Public understanding of the workings of our government being so illiterate at this point is a clear indication that we need to bring that part of our education back. However, civic ignorance was literally the goal when that class was removed from the national syllabus. So it is up to us to educate ourselves and one another on this subject. Happily, there has been a resurgence of interest in the subject for some.
“Of the People.” As I stated, there is no special education, knowledge or power to hold office. Yet we elect people to office and then allow them to use powers and terms such as “executive privilege”, “classified” and “privileged information” to hold over us on a continual basis. This is absolutely wrong. In a government of the people, no such special privileges should exist. Elected officials are accountable to us. They should not have any right to refuse to answer any question which does not place human life in eminent danger. We, the people of this country should have access to most of the information generated by our government and especially elected officials. We should have the right and ability to check on what is allegedly being done “on our behalf” at any time. FOIA requests should not incur formidable costs for the press, leading to weighted access to only the most wealthy press sources, which are typically corporate. Any independent media should be able to file information requests and receive answers. That information has already been compiled under our own expense.
“By the People.” Many elected officials refuse to hold town hall meetings. Even if they do, they are more likely to tell voters we are wrong, even with overwhelming support on a topic. Call them and you get automated systems or flunkies reading a script. Email or write and you may get a form letter in the mail or email in response, often not even addressing that specific topic. Try social media and you may get blocked.We have seen time and again other countries conducting public referendums on various major issues. We live in a time when we can access bank records securely online, we have block chain technology, a continuous push for voter ID and a national ID card. Yet we have no national referendum on anything. There is no valid reason that we, “the most powerful country on earth” cannot implement methods whereby each of our voices are heard. A system which recorded each individual’s choice on any issue could be recorded and identity verified. The problem is, if such a system were implemented, we would have concrete public records when officials went directly against the popular will and instead acted in favor of corporate donors.
Of course, the biggest problem with having a government of, by and for the people is the personal responsibility involved. It would mean we had duty and responsibility to be informed, a commitment to be involved citizens. Many Americans do not want that. They want “leaders”, without truly paying attention to where they are being led. They want to vote once every 2–4 years, hand power and control to their anointed cult leader and then passively-aggressively complain when things become worse. Find someone else to blame. Yet they will praise themselves excessively when anything improves, cheering how “we” had anything to do with it. Even though they exerted no additional effort than submitting a ballot. If they even did that.
If we want the way our government operates to change and be more reflective of our collective will, more responsive to what the people want, then we must do something to make it that way.
I’ve said numerous times, we have no heroes. We are our own heroes. It’s time for us to act like it. No more blame. No more excuses. No more whining.