Saving America from Ourselves
- the real burdens and tasks of Citizenship -
The future waits for our creation. What will we do? Will we be
mere creatures of habit, following blindly our appetites and prejudices, or
will we be more? Will we awake enough to see and to rise to the true
demands of our Age, or will we sleep and find in fantasy the better world
for which we wish? What will we risk? What price will we pay?
What sacrifice make?
For about a year, from just after Easter 2002 to just after Easter 2003, I
ran for President of the United States of America, aiming for the 2004 election.
It was not a mistake for me to do this, although many thought it foolish.
It was really the only way to discover certain matters - including, but not
limited to, several concerning myself. In the end, I realized that what I
conceived as the most important work to try to achieve, would be better served
in another way.
I am basically a writer and a thinker by avocation, not a politician. The
clothes I tried to wear didn't fit too well, and people were frequently confused
by my activities. I had thought I was going to have a certain freedom
of expression by running for President - what I found was that people reacted
with unanticipated expectations and preconceptions. As a consequence
of this reaction, I found myself less free in a social sense. It was
mostly due to this loss of freedom that I changed my mind about running for
Now this might seem an odd way to start an essay, by reporting something
about my experience, but the fact is that these expectations and preconceptions
that I experienced are themselves acts of citizenship. All the candidates
not only experience these expectations, but are confined by them. We,
as citizens and as the electorate, impose on the electoral process, and upon
the candidates much that limits them, and in turn, what might be achieved.
This is an important matter, so please indulge me while I come at it
from another direction.
Our form of government is a kind of very complicated partnership. On
a foundational level, what power the government has comes from us - from the
People. It is a grant of power, and neither a sitting government or
any political party holds any power except in the most temporary sense. We
the People say to our goverment - we need someone to do certain tasks, and
to accomplish those tasks while keeping within these rules and limits. That's
what the Constitution does - it apportions tasks and sets limits on power.
Under these rules, certain people only acquire this temporary grant of power
through being elected. It is a kind of trust. We retain to ourselves
the power of the vote - no one is elected who cannot command our trust through
the ballot. We also retain to ourselves, through the rights of free
speech and association, the power to participate beyond just voting, by creating
political parties and other associations to put forward our own agendas. Even
so, we also, being human and having flaws, do other acts.
We want and hope and dream. We tolerate. We expect. We sometimes
don't listen, or don't care. We forget that citizenship is not just
about rights, but also responsibilities. Mostly we become creatures
of habits, and habits lose their original value and meaning after a time.
Our electoral process is mostly habits now, and as habits go a lot
of them are bad.
The money and ambition we know about. As citizens it is quite clear
what failures our politicians have become. But what about us? Have we
failed as well?
Who can doubt it.
They, the ones in power, aren't doing their jobs very well, but then neither
One of the things which we do that is a bad habit is to expect politicians
to be of a certain mold. For example, we expect them to wear suits,
and look good on television. It is really only habit that makes us
think this way. Most of the people in this country don't wear suits
and look good on television. But we expect a certain type, and don't
respond well to what is not the type.
We also expect politicians to tell us things we like to hear. We are
more interested in that, than in the truth. So we don't read much,
or listen much, or work at understanding much. Here we tend to a great
passivity. We let the politicians, their operatives, and the rich,
set the tone of the campaign - that is determine the fundamental nature of
the dialog. We wait for them to bring the dialog to us, as long as
it is comforting and doesn't require that we think.
I mean, who would want to watch politicians have a debate on the fundamental
theories of government in our time, when we can watch Friends instead?
There is a terrible price that has been paid for our passivity, habits and
I don't know about you, but I'm not going to do that anymore, which is why
I ran for president, and why, though I dropped out of the campaign, that I
am going to make a profession of being a Citizen. The good part is that
I am not the only one - if you start to pay attention you'll find a lot of
us out there. The times demand it. The future of our Country is
at risk, and the bad guys are winning.