What a rare jewel exists in our midst: one that we see
before our eyes, that we hold in our hands, that we
sense in our very souls! Our democracy is as singular as the Earth
itself: to our knowledge, the sole inhabitable life-bearing sphere
throughout the dark of countless light-years. Our democracy,
since its beginnings, has been a light for all to see. It is the most
self-consciously created form of government in human history,
its rights and freedoms founded so as to produce living fountains
of creativity in all the arts, the sciences, the crafts and trades
and industries that together comprise the pathways of human
aspiration and achievement.
Our American history is a chronicle worthy of celebration. Our
nation’s fruits, in their kind and number, are unprecedented—
and they proceed, each and all, from our system of individual
liberties. Our liberties have indeed earned the characterization
of sacred and are supremely worthy of saving.
But, as any candid observer who has lived thoughtfully over
sufficient years would observe, and as the author has found:
There’s somethin’ happening here
And what it is ain’t exactly clear...
This author has found it imperative, as a citizen, having studied
something of history and human character, to undertake a labor
intended to bring clarity to the understanding of our present
state of government, informed by the sobering knowledge that
democracy itself need not end with enormous explosions; it
may be smothered in gathering silences. Democracy need not be
killed in overt acts of war; it may perish through what appear
to be kindnesses. Democracy need not fall visibly, noisily and
dramatically; it may crumble, by imperceptible degrees, before
disappearing. Democracy need not be crushed by foreign foes; it
may collapse under many slight assaults, given and received by
its own citizens, whose acts serve an end of societal implosion.
Democracy can end. Liberty can be lost. The most remarkable
system of government that this most remarkable world has ever
wrought—this jewel—may return to dust.
If you are as interested as I in exploring the brilliance and
assuring the continued vigor of democracy, I invite you to join
me in a not-overlong literary journey. This series of histories
and commentary visits first the various kinds of devised
governments, then the most prevalent kind, and finally the
rarest and most challenging kind: a government of, by and for
the people. Come along as we travel the currents of history,
examining the seeds and roots of our democracy in ancient
Israel and Athens, observing their flower in the republican
era of Rome and watching their powerful pull toward explicit
liberty under England’s monarchy. And then we travel to a novel
world, where established European perceptions were turned
upside down by the witness of councils governing the Iroquois
and Cherokee tribes. In this moment of history we will sample
the writings of philosophers and poets on both sides of the
Atlantic who found echoes in these Amerindian councils of the
glory of Athens. Then we will visit the greatest, most rebellious
generation of Americans who ever drew breath in defiance; who
devoted their lands and their liberties, their fortunes and their
labors, their honor and their lives, to fight for and forge a new
system of governance, founded on individual liberty for the
welfare of all, which they intended to survive for the benefit of
all future generations on this continent, and to form an example
for the benefit of the world.
We will visit the Civil War period in America, when a
tragedy of unimaginable scope consumed the nation, as our
democracy had to suffer into becoming herself, in a fulfillment
of democracy’s promise.
We will then recount the Civil War’s opposite: the orderly
function of democracy as witnessed in the success of the
Women’s Suffrage movement.
So, let’s take a great ride through vignettes of history,
rediscovering ideas that were millennia in the making. Join in
a journey through historical passages, legendary and real, that
formed the foundation of our country. Meet the personalities of
America whose defiance became the cradle of a great democracy!
Consider and appreciate the inventive scope of American artistry
and enterprise that helps define our being.
Come, let us join in a journey of exposition and definition of
the DNA of Democracy.