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Soulful Sundays: Two Evils

Updated: Jul 1

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” ~Benjamin Franklin

CNN hosted a debate last week between current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. To call it a presidential election debate would be going too far, as neither one of these men have been officially selected by their parties, nor did CNN allow third party candidates to attend. Instead, what we witnessed was a presidential bash fest complete with slander, name-calling, and even digs about golf handicaps. While I will admit that it was mostly entertaining, it was certainly not a good look for either side nor the United States as a whole.

When our country’s founding fathers contemplated independence 250 years ago, one of their main concerns was whether or not the American people had the moral fiber necessary for self governance. True republics were the exception when it came to ruling styles at the time, and this created a fair amount of doubt as to whether one could succeed long term. The Revolutionaries had a hard time trusting a republic, actually, and nearly crippled the budding nation under the Articles of Confederation because they had made the federal government too weak.

A functional balance was struck with the creation of the Constitution in 1781. It seemed to include just enough central authority while maintaining the rights of the states and individuals. This document left the nation equipped to handle most of its growing pains, except for a few glaring ones that continue to cause a lot of grief even today. The American Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement were direct consequences of the obvious holes in the Constitution, but by and large the United States has held together comparatively well. We are the oldest existing democratic nation in the world after all, and as Winston Churchill astutely noted, "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

So this brings us to the current state of affairs in our nation. My primary focus is not on the system, the candidates, nor the voting procedure. It is on the people who are doing the voting--you and me. It is essential for us to have virtue so that we can hold our representatives to the same standards. This echoes back the original concerns of our country's founders. The men and women who built this country to the prosperous level that we now enjoy did so with the spirit of freedom, equality of opportunity, and agreed upon rights. When ruminating on whom you would like to see in the White House for the next four years, reflect on whether you are considering every candidate with this same lens.

Is each one of them enjoying the freedom to express their own virtues or are they merely pawns to the larger forces influencing them? Is each one of them being allowed a fair chance at making their case and communicating to the public? Is each one of them playing by the same rules? More importantly, we must consider which candidates are interested in supporting freedom, equality of opportunity, and rights amongst the people.

It may seem like we are really just voting between two evils, but that narrative isn't exactly empowering. What if we looked at voting as a way of supporting a process of government that has the ability to change with us? A vote cast for Trump, Biden, or whomever else, has little real impact in the grand scheme of things (despite how much the press insists). But a vote not cast, is choosing not to participate in the shaping of American values on a grand scale. For the responsible and virtuous citizen (as I'm sure all of you are) the only real decision has already been made. We will keep showing up. We will keep cultivating our own civility. We will vote for the rights of all candidates and all Americans.

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