“The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
— Thomas Jefferson
…but when I consider my country’s dysfunctional democracy, it hardly seems to fair to blame the voters.
Yes, we get to choose…
…but our choices often seem so limited. Will it be measles or mumps? As I see it, this dilemma is unavoidable in a complex democracy.
To climb the political ladder, you must be possessed by an incredible desire to win. Under the spell of that possession, you can easily ignore the little angel in your ear.
Thus, our elected leaders often resemble sanctimonious sociopaths and snake-oil salesmen. They may have been honorable men and women in their previous life…
…but once they enter politics, they wantonly cajole, flatter, lie, pander, manipulate, and feign happiness or sadness or indignation in the manner of bad actors in a melodrama of clichés.
…I’m willing to listen to the argument that our leaders merely reflect who we are as a people. They aren’t the disease; they’re just the symptoms. Though I’m not completely sold on that theory, perhaps it’s best if we accept a degree of responsibility.
In the history of civlization, autocratic rule has been the norm and democracy the exception. We’re still struggling to make the switch.
When we feel powerless in this struggle, we’re defeated. Democracy is defeated. With that in mind, perhaps we should adopt this belief: we’ll get leaders who deserve our respect when we deserve such leaders. We do have some degree of power.
If nothing else, that belief will benefit our mental health. I may not be able to cure my congressman, but I can cure myself.
But though we accept responsibility, we may still feel defeated at times—by forces within and without.
So, to remind ourselves of why we fight, perhaps we should also add this line to our new mythology:
“Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others.”
— Winston Churchill
© 2016, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry