“Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, by all the people, for all the people.” — Theodore Parker from a sermon in Boston’s Music Hall on July 4, 1858
This week the Cleveland Board of Aldermen voted to remove the state flag of Mississippi from all city buildings.
The issue of the Mississippi flag is one wrought with passion. For some it is a symbol of oppression and a degrading history and for others it is a symbol of state pride and unity.
The vote was a close one. The topic had been tabled from the October meeting and there was no guarantee it would come to a vote in November. Alderman Kirkham Povall requested more time to study the matter and Alderman Paul Janoush suggested the vote be put off until all aldermen were present.
However a motion was already on the floor to remove the flag, there was a quorum and by law a vote had to be conducted. It’s important to note here that the mayor does not get a vote unless there is a tie. His job is more as a mediator making sure everyone is heard and order is kept.
Good or bad, we the people put these leaders in a position to act on this issue. They are not career politicians. Though they get a small stipend for their service, in many ways they are volunteers who give of their time to do what they think is right for the city and what their constituents want.
Through the system of government in the United States not everyone can win — the majority rules. The majority wins when a governor, senator or president is elected. And despite the winner takes all process, we voters hope the winners do their best for each person they govern.
Does this Republic type of government mean we the people cannot make our voices heard on the issues? Absolutely not! If we the people want to be heard, then we the voters need to be more active in our government.
We need to educate ourselves on how our government works; we need to study and learn the issues; we need to talk to our governing leaders; and we need to attend government meetings.
Social media allows people the opportunity to vent on any subject and challenge any ruling from the relative safety and anonymity of their living rooms. This does not equal political action. Comments like “This is a joyous occasion” or “They should all be removed from office,” do nothing but fuel a fire of unrest.
If we the people want to be heard, then we the people need to do more. We need to become more active in government and we need to listen to all sides of an argument.
And that’s the true lesson, we have all forgotten and need to relearn.
Our country is made up of different types of people with different childhood upbringings, with different cultural biases, from different generations, and from different genders. When we stop listening and learning from each other, we do ourselves, city, state, country and the world a disservice.
“Outward judgment often fails, inward judgment never.” — Theodore Parker