Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What Do You Think is More Important… ‘American Idol’ or the Future of the United States?

America has decided....(uncomfortable pause).... and it is ‘American Idol’…by a landslide!

We live in a ‘democratic republic’, always have and hopefully, always will.

But this past week, over 35 million ‘votes’ were cast by text message for their candidate to survive the next round of “American Idol”. Millions were crushed when Megan Joy was voted off the show. And millions more were thrilled beyond belief that Anoop Desai of Chapel Hill made it through to the next round.

You know how many people probably contacted the U.S. Congress on Thursday, April 2, 2009, all day long, in 100 US Senate offices and 438 Congressional offices combined, including DC, and the protectorates of Puerto Rico and Guam?

Which happened to be, by the way, the same day that the US House of Representatives passed a historically huge $3.6 trillion budget with a $1.2 trillion (with a capital ‘T’) budget deficit for FY2010 that starts September 1.

Probably less than a million by email, and maybe another million or so by fax or snail mail. (Don’t ever send a mailed letter to Congress anymore; they all get sent to Cleveland, Ohio where they get scanned and probed for anthrax threats, get torn up or destroyed…and then reach the Washington office you aimed it at about a month later than you thought it would get there)

36 million ‘votes’ on AI; less than 2 million on issues like the budget, Social Security, global warming, the War in Iraq and nuclear disarmament all combined.

Who says democracy ain’t great? We freedom-loving, independence worshipers have decided that entertainment is more important than having a free-market, capitalism-based democracy.

We have a government run by representatives (republic) elected by the people (democracy). ‘Democracy’ means, in a Greek sense: power (‘kratos’) of the people (‘demos’). The word, ‘Republic’ means, in a Roman sense: property (‘res’ in Latin can mean "thing;" but also property, affair, inheritance or circumstance. Cicero defines it as property in his De Re Publica (On the Republic)). Democracy literally
means “people rule” in the Greek and the Romans used “Res Publica”, to covey the sense of the “public thing”.[1]

Whatever the word derivation is, there is no guarantee that it will last forever either. In fact, democratic republics are among the most fragile of all government entities. We are not “entitled” to be free and prosperous just because we say so. Freedom under democratic republic governance takes a lot of work and personal sacrifice to keep it that way.

That is why Benjamin Franklin answered Mrs. Powel at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 when she asked: “Well, Dr. Franklin, what do we have?” by saying: “A Republic, if you can keep it”.

He was talking to us, not just Mrs. Powel.

In America today, we are almost perfectly situated to execute a true democratic republic more than ever before in recorded human history due to all of the technology and information we have at our disposal through the internet and other gadgets we all have.

Try it today…it is very easy. Click on the “US Senate” or “US House” buttons on the right side of this column, find your 2 Senators and 1 Member of Congress (you do know who they are…don’t you?), click on their website and then their “Contact XYZ” button and you are in their system. Tell them you hate/love the Obama budget; the stimulus plan; the banking bailout plan but for God’s sake, and your kids, do something..right now!

We consciously choose not to contact our elected representatives and senators in Washington on daily basis on the big issues that are killing us as a nation. But we deliberately choose to repeatedly pay ATT 10 cents for every call to make sure our favorite ‘American Idol’ singer makes it all the way to stardom.

I hope whoever wins ‘American Idol’ this year can sing, dance, play the piano AND balance the federal budget. No one in Washington seems to want to do that last song-and-dance routine anymore.

[1] Nod of the head to Classics/Latin Scholar Tristram Thomas of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for setting me straight on the word derivations and history of Greek and Roman government

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