Who's Got Your Back?
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Who's Got Your Back? • Posted: Apr 03, 2011 19:20:29Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

It's quite irksome to listen to street level conservatives bad mouth some of the most celebrated and inspiring principles and accomplishments of democracy as practiced in the U.S. They get their facts wrong, they misapprehend larger purposes, they infer causation where no linkage exists, they suspect conspiracy, they crudely analyze and sort things into one dimensional categories, their logic is faulty, and they are very quick to jump to emotionally charged dubious conclusions. I listened to one such conservative complain this week that he'd been thrown up against the wall by security guards because he'd attempted to enter a store with a twelve inch bowie knife strapped to his boot. His very hot wild-eyed summation of the event was: "I don't trust no government no how."

Democracy is suppose to be government by the people, of the people, for the people. How is it that so many of our number feel so disconnected from and so antagonistic toward not only our system of self government but toward many of their fellow citizens?

The simplest answer, I think, is that far too few of our current crop of citizens have any sense of belonging to a community. When you know your fellow citizens, understand their concerns, share your concerns, know the experience of working out problems together, test both your own and their limits, appreciate the strength to be had working together, you develop a mutual bond. You begin to trust that bond and the decisions, processes, and institutions that develop as a result of that bond. You establish a sense of community. You know who's got your back and you know you don't need a gun or bowie knife to protect yourself.

But, wait. Don't churches provide a sense of community?

True, they often do. But not in the same way secular democracy can. Churches can provide a moral foundation for how and why people should interact and treat each other. But that moral foundation has been handed down. It's autocratic and must be learned. Members have little or no say in its formulation. And, churches are exclusive. One cannot be a member unless one accepts the moral principles of that particular church or religion, thereby setting up distinctions and boundaries between members and non-members, between unclean outsiders and the sanctified. By contrast, secular democracy attempts to be inclusive and is continually being debated, formulated, and reformulated by its member citizens. It is an ongoing, churning process, requiring continuous involvement by all its citizens at all its levels of organization. The problem seems to be that at increasing levels of complexity people become fatigued. Too much is too much and they willingly hand off their involvement to the care of others. It is at that point the seeds of distrust, alienation, and corruption begin to take root. Those chosen to take the reins start to feel unfettered power that inevitably distorts their thinking and concerns while, now out of the decision loop, ordinary citizens begin to imagine conspiratorial corruption at their expense. Only a dedicated functioning objective press can help both sides keep in touch with each other, informing coordinated effort instead of work at cross purposes, and help maintain a valued trusted sense of community. But as soon as members of the press fail to fully grasp and report the facts without distortion, representatives and citizens separate, mutual contempt begins to grow, and alternatives are sought, alternatives like guns and bowie knives and the divisiveness of religion.

For increasingly complex inclusive democracy to work and a resurgence of divisive religiously fortified tribalism to be kept at bay, members of the press must diligently maintain the bridges of citizen involvement. Advertising dollars raked in is not a just measure of the success of that diligence. The smooth efficient functioning of democracy that promotes and maintains a sense of community amongst all its citizens is.

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
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