We know more about the news than we do about democracy. Does anyone remember social studies or how our government works (when it used to work)?
What happened to the wisdom of government by the people, for the people? While the early members of government argued heartily, debated and fought duels to defend their points of view, they didn’t punish the country and the entire population to get their way. And steal our rights, while bankrupting the country.
Like many who came of age during the tragedies of the civil rights conflict, assassinations of Martin Luther King, President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, we have seen the cost of democracy.
It broke my heart again and again, losing my high school sweetheart to die in the Vietnam War; Kent State; my brother and boyfriends now disabled veterans; losing babies due to my husband’s dioxin exposure in Vietnam; and the failure of the Equal Rights Amendment. It has a cost.
Democracy has often seemed not worth the price it demands from each of us — and yet it surpasses any other form of government. Women have often been sidelined from the process, as we came late to the game. Yet here we are, stepping up to the challenge.
When I graduated high school, I couldn’t follow my father to West Point. I couldn’t get a bank account in my own name without my dad’s approval. I couldn’t have a credit card or a mortgage — not that I could have afforded it. Even girls basketball was disappointing (I have been outraged by this since age 12. We weren’t allowed to run the court! Oh, the fury of an angry teen!).
I was one who tried to exercise my civil rights and voice, participating in various forms of social activism and activities to better society. Marching for women’s rights. Marching for an end to the war in Vietnam. Lobbying for a student drop-in center to deal with drug and health problems. Helping to start the Kauai Women’s Center, a precursor of our wonderful YWCA. Writing letters to editors, columns for newspapers. Acting and writing FOR causes and communities.
Resistance does not work and it isn’t worth the cost.
The lessons of non-violence and non-resistance, as advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, quickly became evident as the one sure path to achieving a victory. Gandhi practiced “ahimsa” to overthrow the British Empire. He also ended bloody upheavals and violent rioting between Muslims and Hindus in India. Because he listened. And people listened to him, because he respected their point of view.
The path of resistance breeds an equal and opposite resistance. Read Newton’s third law of thermodynamics. “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Masters of the martial arts know that you can use your opponent’s attack energy to defeat him. You can redirect his force in another direction. Resistance simply allows the opponent to control your actions. You are reacting, not acting.
Resistance CAUSES persistence. Both sides waste energy opposing each other. It becomes a stalemate, unless your opponent is a large corporation which now has the legal entity standing of an individual thanks to the Supreme Court and “Citizens United.” In that case, they can crush you financially, and by funding corporate “politicians.” They can buy a bigger dog, unless all of us work together and become the biggest dog on the planet.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” —Thomas Paine, “The American Crisis, No. 4,” 1777.
The primary election on Aug. 11 was a tipping point, for Kauai and the state. And in the Nov. 6 general election, each vote is doubly important, because so few of our voters participate. Your vote is now more powerful and counts even more.
Simply resisting what is happening is not sufficient. We must make active participation more than just sign-waving. Being a citizen is hard work.
Your vote may actually be the one that counts the most.
You won’t live in a democracy if you don’t use that voting power.
Virginia Beck is a resident of Kalaheo.