This I Believe

James - Ogden, Utah
Entered on March 23, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: democracy

I believe in the redemptive power of the democratic process.

I admit that democracy has taken a battering in recent years. Lately, the voices of cynics have been the loudest. Jonah Goldberg has said that “pure democracy…says that 51 percent of the people can pee in the cornflakes of 49 percent of the people.”

I believe our country has made tragic mistakes because of a cynical attitude towards democracy, not an unabashed embrace of it.

Getting and spending, as Tennyson might have said, we lay waste our democratic ideals.

Examine how democracy has been a positive force for change. The most obvious example, for an unabashedly patriotic soul like me, is the vision of democracy set forth by the Founding Fathers some 218 years ago. I just don’t believe that 51 percent of us really truly want to pee in the cornflakes of the other 49 percent, especially since I know that it’s likely that, one day soon, a handful of people might switch sides and soil my cornflakes.

I just can’t be cynical when I see the manifest benefits of democracy.

There is an incredible tale of democracy in action that I believe has been overlooked in the many, many stories of bravery on September 11, 2001.

On a doomed United Flight 93, Jeremy Glick called his wife. We’ve taken a vote, he told her, and we’re going to take back this plane.

Think for a moment about the power and beauty of those words. As Americans, it was an innate instinct for democracy that led them to channel the power of a small band of patriots in this particular way. They didn’t draw straws. They didn’t allow one man to force his will on the others. Instead, spontaneously and without apparent reservation, they voted.

I believe they knew they were voting to hasten their own deaths, but these common Americans, thrown together by random fate, acted for a greater good — the preservation of a precious and irreplaceable monument of our democracy.

I believe democracy works, and I think they believed it too.

I believe, as Judge Learned Hand so eloquently put it, “the spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

I believe that democracy is the hammer and tongs that forge a commonweal. I believe in the power of this ingenious and deceptively simple tool.