By Jim Lee
A few months ago, four Portales people started talking about how they thought life could be made better for Americans if they could get people involved in the political processes of our republic, get people to think for themselves, and contribute to the preservation of our constitutional rights.
Among the questions they typically asked each other (and themselves) was: “Does anybody else agree, and do they feel just as isolated?”
To answer this question they collectively and individually started reaching out to the community. The response surprised them. Soon a steadily growing group of socially conscious, non-apathetic citizens met regularly (taking turns hosting at their homes) to exchange ideas and discuss ways to encourage fellow citizens to think for themselves and to participate in the government as a requirement of citizen sovereignty.
They disagreed about some things, especially as the group became larger, but all shared the belief that Americans are supposed to be governed, not ruled, and that government is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (as Abraham Lincoln stated so eloquently in his Gettysburg Address), not (to paraphrase Nicholas Johnson) a government of the people, by the corporations, and for the wealthy few.
I think this means somebody has to run the country for the benefit of somebody when somebody decides who or what the government is — and “somebody” means simply the people.
So, assuming people are the government and should receive the benefits of it, the people should run it themselves. This is the principle of democracy upon which our great nation began.
The politicians should not rule the country for themselves or their friends or other special interests. Their job is to govern as the elected representatives of the people. They are the employees of the public, hired to administer in the public interest at the pleasure of the citizens who elect them. This is citizen sovereignty. The politicians are supposed to be our servants, not our masters.
The biggest enemy of this concept is apathy. Apathy frustrates everybody in this system of government, except those who want to rule for their own interests instead of serving the public.
If the public doesn’t care (or appears not to care), why should those in power care? Citizen sovereignty dies without participation. Apathy inevitably leads to tyranny. At that point our noble experiment ends. Our freedom becomes history.
The shared ideals of the group led to increased interest in the November election. At one of the early meetings the group decided to call itself “Friends for Democracy.”
The growing number of participants came from a variety of political beliefs and philosophies (Democrat, Republican, independent, etc.), but they all shared the fear of erosion of rights and concern about apathy. So they decided to work on voter registration, to support some political candidates, and to continue meeting after the election.
Now numbering close to 30 members, Friends for Democracy continues to work for the ideals for which our nation was founded and to preserve those rights not yet stolen by people in power or atrophied to near-extinction through ignorance and apathy.
The point? Well, right here in Portales something really significant has started: participatory politics. Regardless of political party, we have people who care and who work for their beliefs. Getting involved as citizens, for or against the policies of anyone in power at any level, makes everyone special — just like our special town.
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: