President Joe Biden had powerful words this past Memorial Day in a speech at Arlington National Cemetery. “The mission falls to each of us, each and every day. Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world.” Whether it be rampant voter disenfranchisement here in the United States, questionable elections abroad, or the general rise of totalitarianism, President Biden is right—democracy is in peril. And that means the US itself is in danger of losing relevance.
As the most powerful democracy to have ever existed, the US has been a beacon for opportunity, liberty, and a place where self-actualization is an expectation, not a fantasy suppressed by the government. Of course, the US is not without faults. Black Americans continue to be slaughtered for no reason apart from the fact they are Black. Native Americans on many reservations still live in abject poverty. Women are still widely treated as second to men. LGBTQ+ people are still derided for who they love and how they identify. Refugees and immigrants are still neglected; sometimes to a horrific extent.
In spite of these serious injustices, I strongly think there is no other nation as diverse, as capable, or as malleable as the US. What got us here—what makes this country work—is democracy. We only exist the way we do because everyone can have a say. When we all have a say, we all have a stake, and when we all have a stake, we all have reason to make the best decision possible for ourselves and those we care about. Without democracy, we’re relegated to being trapped in a system that cares about us only as much as it wants to, without consequence.
No, our democracy is not perfect. Indeed, it’s been withering. But that’s exactly President Biden’s point. Democracy is in peril, and we, as the stakeholders, must work to prevent our power from falling into the outstretched talons of all the self-dealing, power-hungry, kleptomaniacs (e.g., Trump) who want to turn our nation into their purse.
Our responsibilities are to vote, but they’re also to be responsible citizen stewards. If you care, become a leader (unofficial or official) at the neighborhood, community, city, county, state, or even federal level. Volunteer for the democratic causes you believe in and help foster the giant we and our predecessors have created.
When done right, democracy is perhaps the most just system of governance that is realistically possible. When done wrong, it can be hard to distinguish from the other, unjust, kakistocracies that have risen and fallen throughout history. Listen to President Biden and remember — ask what you can do for your country.
Democracy thrives in snarkiness