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Democracy in America: Is it working?

NPR asks:

From November 3 through 9, public radio stations around the country will air stories, host local events and conduct interactive discussions on the Internet examining the health of democracy in America.

We're seeking your ideas to help us plan our coverage and explain the challenges facing American democracy.

We want your ideas - what to cover, assumptions that need testing, people we should hear, and positive efforts that should be chronicled. Your input will help shape what we do on a local and national level.

Use this form to share your best ideas. Please give us your name and contact information so if we have questions, we'll know how to reach you.

1. How do you participate in sustaining democracy? If you don't participate - as a voter, activist, informed citizen - what's preventing you from doing so?

In the 2000 presidential election, I voted for Harry Browne (Libertarian). Of the two parties that openly acknowledged the damage to individual responsibility and individual liberty (Libertarians and Green) caused by the Drug War, I judged the Libertarian Party to hold the sounder overall vision of where we, as a nation, should be heading. The Greens, it seemed to me, advocated a kinder and gentler variation on the paternalistic state that now attempts to dictate, to an absurd degree, the intimate details of how we are to live our lives.

2. What does being a citizen mean to you?

Simply being a citizen means that one was born in the U.S. or has satisfied the legal requirements to receive the accreditation called "citizenship." As such, qualifying as a citizen means very little.

Being a good citizen, on the other hand, means finding a way to serve one's community and encourage voluntary cooperation between one's fellow citizens in order to build sustainable systems for living and growing. I think myriad opportunities to practice good citizenship await our discovery. I do not think the path to effective citizenship will be found in electoral politics as they are practiced in the United States today.

Who should we talk to about the health of democracy? Who has something to say that is really worthwhile? Who are people with unique perspectives?

David Brin

Barbara Kingsolver

Gore Vidal

Laurence G. Boldt

Jim Hightower

Ursula K. Le Guin

William F. Buckley

Kurt Vonnegut

4. Do you have a special perspective and expertise in American democracy? Are you a scholar, teacher, lawmaker, lawyer? Would you be willing to be contacted by public radio reporters and producers?

Years ago, as a graduate student, I taught introductory college courses in philosophy, logic, and ethics. I am a cartoonist, and in the past I have attempted to use my comics to steer my readers in the direction of cognitive autonomy and to provide spiritual nourishment and inspiration.

At present I'm apprenticing under a commercial organic gardener. These days, my contribution takes the form of providing literal norishment to my family and my community.

I do not have any credentials that would sound particularly compelling to a radio audience. That said, I would be happy to provide thoughtful (rather than reflexively dogmatic) answers to whatever questions your reporters or producers might put to me.

You can give NPR your own responses to these questions here.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 17th, 2003 04:12 am (UTC)
What needs fixing
While we’re on the subject, I’ve got two pet peeves:

1. There is no mechanism for a federal political initiative. If I want marijuana to be legal in the USA, I can try to get a law passed at the state level, but FedGov can still trump it (like the California medical marijuana law).

2. Slightly less important: I declare to the IRS that I am a foreign resident. The last place I registered to vote was WA. I have to declare that I am a resident of WA in order to cast an absentee ballot. (Because of the Electoral Collage, your vote must be cast in a particular state.) I am not willing to do this. How about demolishing the silly Electoral Collage that let George Bush beat Al Gore?
Jul. 17th, 2003 07:59 am (UTC)
Contemporary Political Wisdom holds that...
If I want marijuana to be legal in the USA...

Then you are crazy, evil, or both. In any event, your views are too far beyond the pale to be given any consideration whatsoever.

Seriously, though, did you send your comments to NPR. As someone so disaffected with "the system" that you not only refuse to vote but refuse to even reside in the US, the NPR producers working on this project might want to hear from you, if only to mock you as a member of the ultra-lunatic fringe.
Jul. 17th, 2003 10:09 pm (UTC)
I had wanted to vote Libertarian, too
Hmmm…are you suggesting that I stick my neck out and actually attempt to make this world a better place (more like I want the world to be like)? Usually I keep a low profile, and I seldom mention to FedGov how much I hate “their” guts--oops!

Being an incorrigible pragmatist, I fear that nothing will be done about marijuana until it becomes a swing issue, i.e. “…and if elected, I will veto every bill until the Congress legalizes marijuana, and every citizen has the right to ingest into their body this particular plant that nature’s God put upon this earth, without the threat of incarceration or some other despicable form of torture!”

And I remember Jimmy Carter explaining on TV how difficult it would be to reform the electoral collage. He basically said there was no way the smaller states like Maine would join to form the needed majority to effect a change, because they would be giving up their advantage in the electoral collage system. So much for doing the right thing.

So I’m not sure just how futile an effort it would be for me to express my opinion to NPR. Would I change the world? Probably not. Would it be a feel-good experience? Eh, maybe. I did write a letter to Judge King to express my complete disgust over the McWilliams case. I’ll just wait for Bill Buckley Jr. to call me onto his show. He’s my hero.

By the way, I had wanted to vote Libertarian, too, last time.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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