Thursday, May 26, 2011

Secrecy, The Antithesis to Memorial Day

The National Riffle Association strongly implies that freedom and democracy are only guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, not the ballet box. They rightly note that there are countries that have ballet boxes but they lack true democracy as voting by the citizenry is a shame. The NRA is correct as holding elections does mean that democracy and personal freedom will be the result. That said, there are countries where guns are in the hands of many of the citizens, and at a much higher rate than the United States, yet there is chaos and a lack of personal freedom. So the gun is not the guarantor of freedom democracy.

Personal freedom is rooted in an open democratic process with vigorous civil discourse wherein ideas are debated, argued, clarity sought, common ground recognized, consensus is found via compromise and where differences are respected. Such a democracy is threatened when demonization of one’s political opponents and winning at all costs replaces respectful civil discourse and nation building.

Another threat to democracy is undue secrecy. When government business is discussed and decided in secret, the democratic process is eroded. I am not talking about military secrecy, or private dialogue between peers, or the leaders with their primary counselors. Democracy is under attack when meetings with special interest lobbyists and high power supporters take place in secret to author legislation. Legislation is best when it is put through the rigor of open debate, where differing viewpoints are aired for public observation and enquiry. Democracy is undermined when elected officials are unable to learn who has participated in the private meetings. Leadership should not ignore freedom of information requests or feel that such legislation should not exist.

Democracy by virtue of its nature is defined by public participation in the shaping of public policy. Hence, lack of government openness and civil discourse are the antithesis to democracy. Secret meetings are also the antithesis to who we honor and why we honor their sacrifice every Memorial Day.

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