"When good people in any country cease their vigilance and struggle, then evil men prevail."
Right now, citizens - Republicans, Independents and Democrats - are showing just how fed up they are with what's going on in Washington. It started with the tea parties and is now moving to the congressional town hall meetings during the August recess.
Normally, when a bunch of citizens get together to express their opinion, politicians rejoice. And they should. When people are motivated enough to come to a meeting or go to an event, it means they're engaged and participating in their governance.
Democrats routinely praise such events - when they're sponsored by unions or MoveOn.org or other left-leaning groups - and use the 'message' of the event as evidence that people support the political agenda. There's nothing wrong with this.
However, politicians are finding that many of these same citizens are NOT happy with the current agenda and are opposing, instead of supporting, the agenda. Citizens are not happy with the spending and what they see as government encroachment into their lives. They're also not happy to know that many in congress never read the bills they vote on. Talk about a poke in the eye.
This is puts the politicians in an unusual position - being confronted with opposition instead of fawning fans. So they are demonizing the members of their community - the very people who elected them. They're calling them everything from Nazis to mobs. They've accused their bosses of having 'a manufactured anger.' Because, you see, in their minds, they are absolutely right so anyone who opposes them or is angry at what they're doing is being manipulated by 'others.' In the case of the health care bill, the protesters really aren't mad, they've just been told by right-wing extremists and evil lobbyists what to do and they are willingly complying with said instructions.
And these statements are just making things worse. When a citizen decides to speak their mind to their 'public servants' on an issue that they deem important enough to actually engage with said servants, the last thing they want is to be called a pawn, much less be mocked and ridiculed by said servants.
Now, groups on the left protest on a regular basis - and they've never been called the names that the current protesters have. During the 2004 election, union members followed around the candidates and brought a huge inflatable rat to many functions in the Northwest Ohio region any time Republicans got together. And if there was a presidential candidate or surrogate around, it was horrible with shouting and name-calling and intimidation. I know because I was there and saw it with my own eyes. It was thuggery - and not a single Democrat official or party representative said a word. They didn't condemn the bad behavior or the 'impolite' nature of the shouts and yells. Usually they were right there giving their support by their presence.
It's the hypocrisy that bothers me so much. It okay for us, but not for you. It's okay for our supporters to be rude, obnoxious, protest, yell, shout, get in your face. But if our opponents do it, the police are called to put a halt to the 'attacks' of words.
Perhaps, with the current situation, it's just projection. The left engages in such tactics and expects their sycophants to fall in line when they get their memo or email telling them what to do. They conclude that this must be what the right is doing, because these politicians cannot conceive of the idea that the opposition being expressed is heartfelt and it comes from people who are just fed up.
Don't get me wrong, there are groups on the right who do this as well, but there is a basic difference between the right and the left when it comes to activism. The left says 'go - protest - hold a sign' and their supporters do. If the right says 'go - protest - hold a sign,' it's more likely that they'll be questioned on the reasoning behind the request and the issue than they are to get people to just follow their directions. The right is as likely to disagree with a point as it is to support it. We're conservative because we believe so strongly in the independent liberty of the individual, rather than the 'collective good' of a movement. We really don't take direction well - especially from 'activist organizations' and certainly not from lobbyists.
So when you see individuals with right-leaning political perspectives out protesting - they're mad. And they've decided to take the matter into their own hands and express their opinions. They are not, as Harry Reid described them, engaged in "efforts to interrupt a debate."
They've been trying to participate in the debate - only to be ignored.
They make phone calls to their reps only to see the vote go in the opposite direction. When they try to find out the number of for/against calls on an issue, so they can hold their rep accountable to the instructions from the district, they are told congress isn't subject to such disclosure and their request is refused.
When they write about an issue, they get the standard 'thank you for writing - here's why I'm right and you're wrong - don't forget to vote for me' form letter that usually doesn't have anything to do with the specifics of the original letter.
And now, when they're showing up at the town halls and forums, they're being told they're shills of an industry, they wouldn't be angry if it weren't for lobbyist and talk show hosts, and that they're just trying to disrupt democracy.
Yep - by speaking your mind to your representative, you're disrupting democracy. Perhaps the politicians have forgotten the First Amendment - just like they've forgotten the limits the Constitution placed on them.
If this weren't such a serious situation it would be funny. Think about it - politicians saying that constituents coming to public meetings to express their opinions is disrupting democracy.
And all this does is make the people even angrier and even more determined to be sure those politicians actually HEAR what they're being told.
In the end, though, the discomfort and surprise the politicians are experiencing is our fault. We've allowed them to do as they please for so long that they've forgotten they actually work for us. We've been an absentee boss, busy with our own lives, and we've not been active in holding our elected officials - our employees - accountable.
We've abdicated our responsibility to consistently communicate with them by turning over that duty to various groups and organizations - yes, lobbyists - whom we've 'hired' by virtue of memberships and we've let those entities speak for us. Oh, we've voted and maybe volunteered for campaigns, but we've not been engaged in our governance. And now that we are, the politicians don't know what to do, especially because we disagree with them.
No politician or elected official should ever be complacent in heeding the wishes of their constituents. But when the constituents stop sharing those 'wishes,' what's the politician to do? Well, we can look around and see what happens under those conditions - it's what's going on today.
However, whenever the absentee boss returns, things are difficult - and the employees certainly don't like it. The employees have probably gotten away with a lot of things they shouldn't have and now the boss is going to enforce the rules. Expectations will be set and will be met - or the employees will find themselves without a job.
The boss, hopefully, will learn a very valuable lesson - that he must be vigilant in overseeing things if he expects the employees to perform appropriately. Otherwise, the boss is to blame for the results.
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."