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Happy Birthday, America! — and many more?

Are we the ones who will witness democracy’s demise? I don’t think this is what poet June Jordan had in mind when she wrote, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

It could happen.

When a small segment of the population has a disproportionate amount of the wealth, it’s called a plutocracy. When a small group controls money, government and the military, that’s fascism. When one religion dominates, it’s theocracy. When leaders lie to the people, start a war, flaunt national and international laws, trash the environment and amass a monstrous debt, that’s just plain terrifying. Many fear the democracy of we the people is dangerously close to crumbling, overtaken by one of the other systems of government.

But it won’t.

First hundreds, then thousands and now millions of patriotic Americans have boldly asserted that they are the ones we’ve been waiting for and have chosen to devote their time and talents to assure that government of, by and for the people will not perish from this land.

A movement from the grass roots

A massive, vibrant progressive movement has emerged to restore and strengthen democracy. It’s grown up from the grass roots, not handed down from national leadership. People are connecting to one another through conferences and workshops, in meetings at coffee shops, community centers, churches, mosques and synagogues and through the Internet in amazingly creative ways.

They are educating themselves and others about critical issues and envisioning a better future for all. Books and articles are being written by experts and activists. Bloggers are having dialogues that raise and examine important issues. Citizen journalists are reporting on news that the corporate media ignores.

They’ve formed hundreds of organizations and are implementing thousands of projects to get ordinary citizens involved. They are exploring the spiritual progressive values on which our country was founded.

Dissent is essential
They are protesting when the current administration and Congress propose or enact policies that aggravate problems instead of leading to solutions. Dissent is an essential part of democracy. They support those officeholders who are standing up for our rights.

And they are working to get progressive candidates elected to office at every level of government, from city councils to Congress and the presidency. Then they will hold these elected officials accountable.

Now is the time for all citizens to actively participate in democracy to best of their ability. To volunteer instead of shopping. To talk to people with differing viewpoints, rather than just those who agree. To contribute money instead of buying a new handbag or golf club. To make phone calls instead of watching a reality show on TV.

This is real: citizens taking responsibility for the future of their country.

This is democracy in action!

Phyllis Stenerson, of Minneapolis, focuses on values in politics and public policy through research, writing and activism at

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by myles spicer on 07/03/2008 - 11:04 am.

    Well done…and right on!

  2. Submitted by Phyllis Stenerson on 07/03/2008 - 11:38 am.

    Note from the writer – A question mark belongs at the end of the headline: “and many more?” I believe the chances of our democracy continuing is questionable.

  3. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/03/2008 - 12:35 pm.

    I sincerely hope Ms. Stenerson is right.

    John McCain could conceivably be elected if he succeeds in maintaining his faux “maverick” persona and hiding his leadership of, and therefore involvement in, the International Republican Institute’s funneling of USAid money to those who work to undermine the democratically elected leaders of South American countries. The Bush administration wishes them “gone” because they don’t agree with Washington’s attempted application of corporatism to their economies.

    So far, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil have been hit with “socialist dictator” propaganda that ends up on the pages of the NY Times and the Washington Post as “truth,” while Haiti’s President Aristide was abducted and whisked off to France.

    McCain is MUCH more dangerous to democracy than he would have us believe. As dangerous as Bush and Cheney!

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