Is America still America if millions of us no longer know how democracy works?
When I speak on college campuses, I find that students are either baffled by democracy’s workings or that they don’t see any point in engaging in the democratic process. Sometimes both.
Not long ago, I gave a talk at a major university in the Midwest. “They’re going to raze our meadows and put in a shopping mall!” a young woman in the audience wailed. “And there’s nothing we can do!” she said, to the nods of young and old alike.
I stared at her in amazement and asked how old she was. When she said 26, I suggested that she run for city council. Then she stared at me– with complete incomprehension. It took me a long time to convince her and her peers in the audience that what I’d suggested was possible, even if she didn’t have money, a major media outlet of her own or a political “machine” behind her.
This lack of understanding about how democracy works is disturbing enough. But at a time when our system of government is under assault from an administration that ignores traditional checks and balances, engages in illegal wiretapping and writes secret laws on torture, it means that we’re facing an unprecedented crisis. [complete article]