Photo credit: Nick Youngson
“Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behavior” means the behavior that democracies like or the behavior that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.” C.S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)
Let’s embrace the spirit of democracy in the conduct of our daily lives. Here are a few suggestions to consider and/or share with others:
Take the long view and don’t miss the forest for the trees. So long as we preserve our democracy, you will always have another chance to compete for your cause – in one election after another, at the federal, state, and local levels. Many a fight lost at the federal level has been won at the state level. Some causes took decades to win, but tenacity wins out.
Be respectful. We are all Americans, we all want to make America a better place even if we have different ideas about how to go about it. And think about the Golden Rule. If you want to be heard, then earn the right: first show the others that you are willing to listen to them, just as you would have them listen to you. Other people occasionally have ideas that might benefit you. Listen for them. Defend your opponent’s right to speak, even you disagree with them – as you would have them defend your right to the same. If you want to speak, speak to others as you would have them speak to you.
“We want to fight, and I want to fight, but we will be respectful … That doesn’t mean you have to reduce your ferocity. It’s just got to be respectful.” — John McCain, 2008.
Never tell people they are wrong or evil: it closes their minds and encourages them to think of new reasons why they are right and righteous. Telling people they are wrong further entrenches them. Instead, let people know what you believe, what you want, and why. People like to figure things out for themselves. Similarly, never tell people what to do or how. Instead, lead by example. Be the best person you can be.
Push for solving a problem instead of pushing against “them.” Learn about, and push for, something that matters to you. Think about what you want, what needs to change, where, how, when, and why. Advocate for those changes. If you do it in this way, making sure not to personalize things, you may find a surprising number of allies.
Remember most people have a lot of good in them. There are all sorts of helping and sharing going on every day. If you aren’t already one of those people, become one. Join an organization aimed at good works rather than politics: Civitan, Elks, Food Banks, 4-H, Kiwanis, Lions, Moose Lodge, Optimists, Rotary, Paralyzed Veterans of America, United Service Organizations (USO), and so many more.
Be a thoughtful media consumer. Make a commitment not to live in a media bubble. Go for sources with different points of view. Learn how other folks look at things. And stay on your toes. Almost all of our media, mainstream, alternative and social, are privately owned. They have no obligation to report objectively. This is a special problem when media ownership is concentrated in just a few hands. Think about the political orientation of the news you are reading or watching, think about what their motivations are, ask if the logic in their story holds up and if credible sources are named.
Fight for free, fair, and accountable democracy. Eternal vigilance in the defense of democracy is a real thing – because it is a completely natural temptation for some people to try to game or undermine the system. History is full of examples. Educate yourself (if you haven’t already) on the principles and legal angles involved in getting free, fair and accountable government. This website offers some help and there is much more to be had. Then engage. You don’t have to know it all. Pick an angle that you feel strongly about and partner with a non-partisan (non-partisan) organization specializing in that angle. You might even consider running for office yourself.