Sunday, August 9, 2009


Recently started reading Alex de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America", and was struck by two ideas specifically mentioned in the Introduction by the abridged edition's editor, Richard Heffner. de Tocqueville saw the potential for democracy to become the tyranny of the majority. But he offered "tools which free men might in their artestry create to strengthen their ancient freedoms."

One of these "tools" was: an idependent press, in which de Tocqueville argued that only as such does the individual have a voice against oppression.

However, the whole concept of a free, independent press is virtually non-existant today. With huge corporations owning newspapers, television and radio news (and increasingly tied directly to government), and "news wire" journalism, in which entities such as AP or Reuters constitutes the vast majority of news stories in even local newspapers, the "individual" voice is muffled. Except on the internet. It remains the last true outlet for the individual.

The second "tool" de Tocquville offers according to Heffner is "groups of citizens to guard always the rights and interests of their individual fellows, constantly aware that their own freedom depends upon the extent to which they will defend that of every other citizen".

Many years ago, I never hesistated to use my individual "voice". In high school, I had my own opinion column in the school newspaper, which earned an award for editorial writing from the New Mexico Press Women's Association. I continued to be a news-junkie, but as I grew older, I guess I began to believe that surpression my opinionated self was a sign of wisdom. After all, "opinions are like a**holes, everybody has one", and would actually tell people, "Don't ask my opinion. Because then I'll have to give it to you, and you probably won't like it." Instead, it'd come out in the occasional rant to whatever poor sucker happened to be standing next to me--co-workers, neighbors, friends, family.

Starting in the spring of '08, though, these rants were becoming more and more frequent, and more and more intense because I sensed something just wasn't right. It hadn't been right for a long while, but I was seeing signs of extremely alarming trends. Based on my addiction to books and history, Mark Twain's quote, "History might not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme" took on even more importance. It wasn't enough for me to simply vent to co-workers and family, or the hapless politician who dared knock on my door. Increasingly I felt as though this country was on an express train speeding through the mountains, and I was a lone voice screaming "THE BRIDGE IS OUT AHEAD!" against the roar of the locomotive. Trying to get the train to slow down, proceed cautiously. To get people to STOP AND THINK! Still, I hesitated using my voice publicly. Who am I, after all, but yet another schlub with an opinion? So just stay quiet. Vote. But otherwise, keep those opinions to myself.

Except a very vivid memory popped into my head. When I was nine, my mother took me to see the Bicentenial Train when it came through town. Among the many displays was a glass-encased copy of the Declaration of Independence. My mother made a point of drawing my attention to two signatures on the bottom of the document:
Richard Henry Lee, and Francis Lightfoot Lee.

"Those are your ancestors," she told me.

Though I wasn't old enough to quite understand the significance of this, it still impressed me. Now that I was old enough to comprehend, I began to feel guilty. Through my veins flows the blood of two men who had mutally pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. And was not my remaining silent dishonoring them?

I began seeking out avenues on the internet, but I found the various established venues frustrating or restricting.

Thus the purpose behind this blog. Here I can add my individual voice and my bark to the packs of guard dogs defending the individual rights of my fellow Americans.

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