should we have a vote on voting?
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable — a most sacred right — a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.
These are words of a Republican — a Republican with faith in government and governing. And a Republican murdered by an unabashed anti-government racist who penned these words before his own death: “I love justice more than I do a country that disowns it.”
Abe Lincoln knew a thing or two about rising up and shaking off. He lacked formal education; he sold off his failing business; only one of his four sons lived past 18; he battled depression; and he marched into a political career devoid of money, political acuity or the type of friends willing to help him secure any of it. This is why his triumphs are even more profound today. In the end, however, Lincoln was but a mere mortal, unable to shake off an untimely and gruesome death. Yet, while the dreamer was gone, the dream lived on.
Roughly 150 years later, that dream came to bear as never imagined. A black man stood within a White House, and a nation fell breathless at the spectacle. But were Barack Obama to lack formal education, fail at business, father four children, battle depression and march toward D.C. bereft of political savvy or influential pals, rest assured the only time he would have spent in the Capitol Building would be on a guided tour.
This is the very irony of our time.
One might argue that Lincoln’s tenure was perhaps the most turbulent in our nation’s history. One might also argue that perhaps we have entered another such epoch, an epoch in which tolerance is a four-letter word, an epoch defined by self-indulgence over sagacity, an epoch when the very hope that ruled stump speeches and upended the status quo has wound up stumping the voices of a new generation.
This same generation is under siege. While it obsesses over texting frazzled friends or romping around reality TV, the light that keeps dreams awake is all but missing. The reason? The main breaker is located on a Hill in D.C., buttressed beyond reach.
For it is this simple: the American people have been shaken off. Our services are no longer required.
We say, “We want to work.” Government says, “No.”
We say, “We want affordable, quality health care.” Government says, “No.”
We say, “We want affordable, quality education.” Government says, “No.”
We say, “We want social equality.” Government says, “No.”
We say, “We want to end our engagement in war.” Government says, “No.”
We say, “We demand that you to listen to us.” Government says, “No.”
If Republican politicians are thusly resolute in their crusade to reduce or altogether terminate governmental influence, then why would they not opt for the most logical solution: remove themselves from the very process they so abhor? That would effectively conclude their subjugation to government paychecks, government health care, government social security, government perks and government celebrity. Free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last.
If Democratic politicians are thusly resolute in their crusade to foster government’s dominion, then why would they demand bipartisanship? No such thing exists. Compromises do just that. They compromise the wealth inherent in good ideas. They whittle the will into doing what is just OK or just plain inane, not what is wholly just. Did Lincoln compromise his dream? Did MLK compromise his? By comparison, Barack Obama has largely compromised the dreams that got him to the Rose Garden; the audacious dreams that he trumpeted into our psyche at a time when dreams were all we had left.
But now what is left?
We are compromised. We are expendable. We are dangling on strings, disgusted but dumbed down to such a degree that we expect nothing else.
Barack Obama was the product of a biracial relationship and a broken home. He emerged a champion of community building, a Constitutional scholar and the keeper of the keys to the nation’s highest House. Speaker of the House John Boehner shared one bathroom in a two-bedroom house with 11 brothers and sisters. He was the first family member to attend college, and he worked as a janitor to help pay tuition.
If their stories continued along such a path, perhaps these two men would be far more worthy and adept at helping the rest of us realize our own dreams. But their paths ended when their prosperity-cum-popularity began. And who fueled such a thing? We did. We marched into voting booths, and we marked ballots ultimately in favor of cannibalizing our own dreams.
So now what of these words...
“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government...”
We must ask ourselves: how long do we continue to cast votes that cannibalize dreams? How long do we cast votes in a process that often requires the lesser of two dream-killers? How long do we believe that bad people are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote?
Politicians never tire of telling us that Washington is broken. Washington is far from broken. In fact, it has never been more moneyed and more mighty than it is today. It is those of us who exist beyond the Beltway that are broken. And it is Washington that wields the wooden bat upon our fractured knees.
Why do we vote for Washington when Washington does not vote for us? Perhaps it is time to rise up and shake off the compromise that commands our lives. Perhaps we cancel their paychecks, we end their health care, we close the doors to their children’s schools and we send them deep into the desert dunes where they can fight the enemy in their silk suits and American-flag ties.
Perhaps tomorrow is the day that we stop voting for Change We Can Believe In But Never Comes. And perhaps liberating the world in which we live is to finally live in a world in which we liberate our own dreams. Because those we continue to count on to do so continue finding it far more suitable to keep us as far away from the conversation as possible.