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The Suicide of Democracy

OP ED:  As the sun rose this morning, it’s light shown on a nation where to some it seems a new and better day is dawning. For others it was followed by a night that they believe will only return darker than ever over the next four years. And then there are those, like this writer, who wonder if this nation isn’t destined to languish in an uncertain twilight for generations to come.

The Scots have a term more appropriate for where Americans wake up this morning. It is called the “gloaming.” It is a time that comes twice a day, not once. It is that time before sunrise and after sunset; a time when darkness is either fading or approaching – a time of uncertainty.

History is filled with such periods, such times of gloaming. Well over 2000 years ago, the prophet Daniel told of the rise and fall of successive seemingly invisible governments. In a vision from God, he spoke of the power of the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, all who would be swallowed up by the yet to appear Romans. Each government came to times of gloaming – the time they emerged from the haze of history to ascend to power and the time they slowly faded away into the darkness.

Neither type of gloaming is an easy time. Nations ascending to power seldom do so without conflict and sacrifice. Those fading away into the twilight are almost always marked by selfishness, hedonism, and denial. Which time of gloaming we are in is a matter of interpretation. And more often than not that interpretation depends on whether one is on the current winning side or not.

But to all kings, presidents, parties and voters, Daniel speaks through time to remind us that it is God who “removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). We like to think we hold such an absolute power of self-determination that we put one man in office or we drive him out. Even when some acknowledge God’s rightful place as the ultimate determiner of power and authority, they too often declare Him to be on their side if they are victors. And if they are losers they see Him as somehow against them.

None of this is to say we are not responsible as individuals and citizens to do all we can to ensure as peaceable and effective a government as possible. Christians are told in Romans 13 to “be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” But this is not as clear-cut a mandate to simply obey certain men because they are in power as one might suppose. The form of governance God has allowed us is one of self-government. Like it or not, in the system established through Providence in the United States of America, we are the government.

We are a democratic federal republic. As such, we have both the strongest and yet most fragile form of rule possible. Our form of government depends on strong leaders determined to do the right thing, even when opposed by the majority. At the same time, this government depends on a proper understanding and application of democracy by the people. That includes the ability written into our Constitution to have a peaceable revolution every four years.

Yesterday, we were granted the ability to replace the president, vice-president and along with them a cabinet that determines the day-to-day direction of this country. We also had opportunity to shift the balance of power in both the Senate and House of Representatives. It was a constitutional, and many would say God-given, right to revolt without need of violence.

But democracy is the fragile part of the equation. In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic 2,000 years ago:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

John Adams, Founding Father and the nation’s second president warned: “Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

I doubt many see this time as “High Noon” with the sun shining brightly with promise all over this land. It is a deeply divided land. And not one divided over single divisive issues such as states’ rights and slavery prior to the War Between the States.  This is a land fractured by a myriad of special interests and generational divides. Something is broken, any way you look at it.

Only time will tell which phase of the gloaming we have entered, but that is where we are.

©2012 Off the Grid News

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