Our country continues to face a political crisis which threatens the fabric of our republic and its institutions.
Over the course of the past 40 years, we have become a nation increasingly characterized by extreme political partisanship, social tribalism, a loss of confidence in and distrust of many of our nation’s most critically-important and historically-trusted institutions, a growing public perception our judicial system has become politicized along ideological lines with a Supreme Court majority which seems to be more influenced by personal political and religious beliefs than the expansion and preservation of underlying individual liberties, a latent distrust of local law enforcement agencies in many minority communities, evidence-based science on issues ranging from vaccine efficacy to the climate change ignored and, without any proof whatsoever, where a large minority of Americans continue to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Partly to blame are the vast majority of Americans who only watch or listen to media and consume other information which justifies their preconceived and often misinformed views of the world, letting their opinions … often served up by self-serving politicians and talking heads (for whom truth has given way to alternative facts and conspiracy theories for their own selfish ends of ratings, re-election or monetary gain) … determine the “facts” whey are willing to believe rather than relying on verifiable facts shape their opinions.
This has resulted in large numbers of Americans, becoming alienated or threatened by evolving societal changes, willing to sacrifice our constitutional-based democracy at the altar of demagogic promises of “American First” and a revival of an imagined social past … chillingly, echoing promises sold to the people of several European nations almost a century ago.
Recent polls have uncovered an increasing drumbeat among activist on both sides of the political spectrum advocating limitations of speech, censorship and the acceptance of violence to achieve democratically-unattainable goals. Again, for those who have forgotten history, trends recalling the political environment of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s.
Parenthetically, it was 98 years ago this past July 18th Mien Kampf was first published. It is more than just troublesome to witness some on the far right seemingly using it as a playbook; trafficking in “big lies”, labeling all who disagree with them as “enemies of the people”, attacking formerly trusted governmental institutions, scapegoating minorities and immigrants whom they blame for many of the nation’s ills, supporting extremist groups such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and increasingly demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice the liberties of others for a more autocratic American future.
The January 6th assault on the Capitol illustrates how fragile our democracy truly is, how little regard many Americans have for its most important conventions and the number of people willing to embrace baseless conspiracy theories and outright lies proliferated by politicians who claim to love American but abhor our political system and whose ignorance of and disdain for the Constitution threatens both its guaranteed liberties and the future of our Republic.
While the causes for our deepening cultural schism are multifaceted, it is undeniable a significant majority of Americans are willfully ignorant about civics, American history, the Constitution and the fundamental ideals upon which American fought for its independence. This has resulted in a growing public apathy and unwillingness to thoroughly educate themselves about the issues, public policies and candidates for public office before heading to the polls … if they are even willing to vote at all.
Some of the blame of this sad reality rests on our educational system which has too often devalued requiring a thorough knowledge and understanding of Civics, the Constitution and U.S. History with watered-down and in some areas politically-biased versions of those courses, if required at all.
While deeply concerned about the future of our Republic and our representative democracy, I recognize changing the minds of older folks can be daunting if not impossible, task, particularly those on the extreme political Left and Right who have fallen under the spell of politicians and talk show hosts who, unfortunately, seem to have the loudest public megaphones, there is hope.
The future of our Republic rests with today’s young adults who will become our country’s “next generations” of civic leaders and voters. Therefore, it is critical they develop a thorough understanding of and appreciation for our nation’s history and founding ideals, the Constitution and American Civics … while enhancing critical thinking skills.
Providing our “next generations” of voters and political leaders with incentives to gain a comprehensive understanding of American civics, our nation’s founding ideals and documents and our nation’s history while enhancing their critical thinking skills so that they will be equipped to confront the challenges and dangers to the future or our Republic and move America toward “the more perfect union” it founders envisioned.
For the past two years thelegacyof1776.com, has once again partnered with the Bucks County Courier Times and Intelligencer, both sharing a loyalty to and respect for the Constitution; those unique freedoms and liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights, and the vital importance of legislative compromise; irrespective of individual ambitions or partisan party affiliations.
Yet, neither a regional media such as the Courier Times and Intelligencer nor thelegacyof1776.com through its limited on-line presence can hope to identify and broadly communicate workable and effective solutions to the challenges and dangers such attitudes represent for the future of our democracy.
This fall they will be sponsoring a Third Annual Civics Scholarship Contest open to all Bucks County (PA) high school seniors, challenging them to submit a 300-500 word essay;
“Explore the debate over removing books from school shelves, limiting what subjects can be taught in classroom settings or discussed by teachers with their students, and school or campus restriction on language which might be offensive to others … and make a case as to whether such efforts are justified in general or as they might be appropriate for certain age groups … and why.”
Hopefully, the contest and related the publicity surrounding it can encourage a dialogue about our Constitutional heritage, not just among the students but also their families, residents across Bucks County and beyond.
While our regional scholarship contest is, admittedly, a very small step but one, if successful and replicated (focusing on different civics and constitutional essay subjects) locally in Bucks County and in cities and counties across the country, it can be invaluable catalyst in rebuilding confidence in and preserving our democratic institutions and provide a means of safeguarding the fundamental principles on which our republic was founded and has endured for 247 years.
These efforts represent but a very small step in trying preserve and protect our liberties and fragile democracy in the face of such overwhelming challenges.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try … as the stakes are so high!
As the Chinese philosopher is quoted as saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”