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True Democracy and Political Values

Wash monument and people
Teddy Roosevelt often observed that American democracy is too sturdy to be destroyed by a foreign enemy. But, he warned, it could easily be destroyed by "malefactors of great wealth" who would subvert our political institutions from within. President Dwight Eisenhower cautioned Americans about the great danger of falling under control of the military-industrial complex. Franklin Roosevelt warned, "The liberty of democracy is not safe if people tolerate growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism."

Corporations and big money need to be out of Washington, out of state and local politics. We need to have true and fair elections instead of auctions for political office. Corporations need to act in a socially and environmentally conscious manner, and be accountable for these actions. Corporations need to respect our democracy.

Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy says, "The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions: Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinion? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up, trusting our fellow citizens to join us in our determined pursuit--a living democracy?"

Heart and spiritual values must be instilled in our democracy. "American politics needs the transformation that can result from the activism of religions that respect the traditions of others, and that realize that we must seek both freedom of religion and freedom from religion, because if there's not freedom from religion there is not freedom for religion." (The Rev. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance)

Where are the qualities of spirit in today's politics? Spirituality and religion are easily confused. Religion brings people together around certain beliefs, traditions and practices. Spirituality transcends politics. Spirituality transcends religion. Listening to each other, trying to understand our differing points of view, cooperating toward the common good of all, the inclusion of all, caring for each other, fairness, honesty, tolerance. These are the qualities of spirit. While the founding fathers knew the dangers of allowing religion to interfere with civil life, they said nothing about the separation of state and spirit.

We need to ask ourselves if the actions and results of our government's policies reflect our moral and spiritual values. Do those actions and decisions make us want to support this government with our tax dollars? Do the results of our government's decisions make us feel more confident and secure about our children's and our nation's future? Our answers to those questions may be very different, but what is important is that we ask these and other questions. What is important is that we face the reality of what our government has become.

Now What? Use these resources to learn more and work for change: