Monday, August 01, 2005

Democratic Nostalgia

Is it possible to long for a time gone by, even if you have no direct experience of it?

I really don't know, but here's another little something I ran across reading Harvey Kaye's Thomas Paine. It has to do with the rise of Democratic-Republican societies -- the Jefferson, Madison, but mostly Paine faction -- throughout the mechanic and middle classes during the 1790s. The first one, the German Republican Society of Philadelphia, organized in my very own Philadelphia were organized around this philosophy:
"In a republican government it is the duty incumbent on every citizen to afford his assistance, either by taking part in its immediate administration, or by his advice and watchfulness, that its principles may remain uncorrupt; for the spirit of liberty, like every virtue of the mind, is to be kept alive only by constant action."
As political participation atrophies and apathy situates itself so cynically throughout the American public, we should remember what an astounding opportunity we all have to craft the kind of society we want. The early working and middle classes knew how historic their direct participation in working the pistons of society was and how powerful they were when organized. The elite still understands this and have never forgotten how tenuous their grip on power is if the public engages through voting, civic awareness, and watchful vigilence. Why don't we get what was once so apparent to our predecessors?

POSTSCRIPT: President Bush has made John Bolton ambassador to the UN through a recess appointment, bypassing the normal Senate confirmation procedure. Sniff that democratic air wafting out of the White House right now.