Democracy's Greatest Weapon

If history has taught us anything, it's that discretion is the better part of valor.
Our greatest weapon
Our greatest weapon

In the past, political divide surrounded how both sides proposed to solve a problem. Today the divide is more about whether a particular problem is a problem at all. As a result, a person's political leanings are determined by whether or not they deem a hot-button issue as worthy of addressing or not. It's not about solving the Syrian refugee crisis, it's about those who say there's a crisis and those who say there's no crisis at all.

That's why Trump is a blessing. Some people are what the times need. Right now we need a voice like Trump's because it forces us to confront the taboo issues we all secretly harbor in our hearts and minds. We shouldn't hate Trump. We should feel sympathy for him as we cast a ballot against him. He's been sheltered from reality his entire life. Handed a small empire by his father at an early age, and never technically having to exert himself beyond phone calls and giving orders, he's never tasted what if feels like to be othered or to know those who've been othered.

Naturally, when this kind of person is faced with new and unique challenges they default to 'make it disappear' as opposed to dissect and understand it. He is either very afraid, or just deceitful enough to recognize fear in the masses and exploit it. For a man or woman to carry either trait would make them unfit for the honorable presidency of the United States.

Bravado is not strength and strength is not enough to lead a nation. Terror, immigration, classism, safety; are complicated, nuanced challenges. We do in fact need a strong leader to address them. But if we stop at strength we get Assad, we get Putin. We may even get Hitler. I'm no cheerleader for Reagan, but I remember watching a video clip of him surrounded by a crowd of irate African Americans who were shouting at him as he shouted back in equal irritation, "If you would be quiet I will tell you my plan!" On the surface it looked confrontational, but this is what democracy looks like sometimes; a leader willing to give an explanation to the dissatisfied among his constituency. That type of fortitude requires more than strength.

We need a strong and thoughtful leadership; one that is able to look at the past in order to inform the future. We need a president that is able to use history as an adviser and the present as a forewarner. Because if history has taught us anything, it's that discretion is the better part of valor. If a nation-state has the capacity to annihilate entire populations with the launch of a drone; eavesdrop on every conversation and build monolithic embargo walls, they ought to be able to pause and figure out alternative paths before resorting to those extremes. 

In that vein, the person of Trump represents our collective fears as a citizenry under fire. Likewise, Sanders represents our collective outrage over social injustices perpetrated against marginalized groups over the past 60 years. Both are extremes of our natural emotions.

But Clinton represents our collective forbearance; a temperament that weighs fear and outrage with pragmatism and equity. That's why it makes sense for Obama to endorse her as he's done. She's certainly not perfect. She never claimed to be. But she's the choice we must make right now.

Regardless of what Trump makes funny faces about; we need not panic. We have the privilege of the secret ballot. The secret ballot is the cornerstone of democracy, not yelling, fighting, sabotaging and name-calling. Because of it we're not intimidated by any threat internally or from outside forces because our system is greater than any threat. It's a system based on people; their fears, their outrage, their hopes and their dreams, but perhaps more importantly, their prudence. Prudence is the ability to combine all those feelings of fragility with good sense, and good sense makes the world go-round. Good sense gave us America. With all its flaws and blemishes it is still a beautiful experiment.

Sure, the system has faltered. Prudence has sometimes been buried in the fray... but it's never been lost.

While democracy has sometimes used fists, cannons, missiles, bombs, rifles, and even loud voices; the secret ballot is its greatest weapon yet, and the loudest voice of all.