A Seasonal Warning From Charles Dickens
In Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol, The Ghost of Christmas Present forced Ebenezer Scrooge to look upon “two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable.” He called them the children of Man. “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,” he warned, “and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.”
He could have been talking about politics in modern America.
Bad legislation isn’t a disease. It’s a symptom that presents only after the body politic has been sufficiently weakened by neglect. Heinous laws don’t get proposed when there is a chance of violent outrage and truncated political careers. Those who propose such legislation are opportunists. They wait until it’s safe. Until, despite potential for vocal opposition, there either isn’t enough passion to remove them from office or there are enough incentives to bribe the electorate.
The laws aren’t the problem. The legislators aren’t the problem. We, the people are.
There are brave and notable exceptions - you know who you are – but, for the most part, the American electorate has chosen passivity, apathy, and greed. We have done worse than abrogated our duty to keep our political system healthy, we’ve forgotten that it is our duty.
Some lazily choose to pay no mind to “politics” and all they think that entails (or want it to), allowing themselves to remain ignorant of threats to the liberties we once, as a nation, championed and held dear. When someone else’s actions are found frightening or offensive, some cry for more government to squash them - turning a blind eye to the fact that they have now empowered that same government to restrict their cherished rights when others find them disturbing. Worse, some cheer on any expanse of regulation when it results in their personal profit – financial, creature comfort, ego, or any other form – and never think to consider whether it is just, or the place of government to be involved.
We settle. We compromise. We “leave it to the professionals” or substitute feelings for facts because it’s easier than educating ourselves before taking a position. We complain and harumph in our deepest tones of offense without actually demanding accountability. We use the contemptible standard of "the other guy did a worse thing" to judge the actions of our candidates, leaders and representatives. We shrug and say, “Well, that doesn’t affect me,” because we don’t have the courage to look past a cause we don’t support to see a principle that we should.
We wallow in Ignorance, and make decisions based on Want. Whether Doom is written on our brow remains to be seen.