Let’s face it: the world is at a turning point. The United States is putting up with at best, a strange and erratic political scene led by an inept administration, or at worst, a power-hungry megalomaniac who wants to upend politics and replace it with a model more like the Apprentice where he calls all the shots.
Around the world, from Turkey to Russia, from the Alt-Right to ISIS, an anti-democratic mood is on the rise amongst insurgents and the establishment alike.
At times like these, the world would do well to remember Edmund Burke’s admonition from long ago: that evil succeeds when good people do nothing. Those of us who love democracy, love America, love political freedom need to stand up and present the world with a rallying cry. Those who have had little time for politics in the past, now is the time for you to join us to protect what we’ve come to take for granted.
In the coming weeks and months, Radio Free New England will experiment with blogging and podcasting a democratic* revival. I’ll be writing about concepts like individual dignity and human rights, talking with people about the ways they take responsibility in their communities, and featuring inspirational speeches, addresses, essays, and more from some of history’s greatest champions of democracy.
*In my mind, democracy looks like the following: people taking responsibility for their individual lives and communities, and supporting their neighbors (broadly defined) in pursuit of our common goals – life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness (but also health, meaning and morality). Democracy is this sense is “small d.” If you don’t know it already, you will surely figure out that I am a liberal in many ways. To me, that doesn’t matter much in this project. I think liberals and conservatives have a shared interest in preserving our democracy and extending those universal values to as many people as we can. We can save our disagreements over specific policies for the debate in the democratic process itself.
I think liberals and conservatives have a shared interest in preserving our democracy and extending those universal values to as many people as we can. We can save our disagreements over specific policies for the debate in the democratic process itself.
But, to do this, we as Americans, and people at large, need to be tolerant of losing some of those policy battles. One of the main problems with our current political climate is that people on all sides think that if the Other wins even just one battle, Armageddon will come. We’re so entrenched, that it is unlikely any side will be satisfied with any leader other than a Trump-style politician who leans their way. As Patrick Moynihan once put it, that kind of politicking is nothing more than “boob bait.” It applies equally to all sides, and it is a political tone that needs to stop if we’re to preserve our democratic heritage.
RFNE’s purpose, then, is to elevate the beautiful voices of democracy – people like Locke and Burke, Jefferson and Adams, Douglass and Lincoln, JFK and MLK, Havel and Walesa, Tutu and Mandela, and many others who once, and still can, rouse people to return to the “better angels of their nature” (Lincoln) and defend this ideal, this experiment that has lit the world with passion. Let’s not be the generation that lets democracy burn out because we failed to feed the flames.