Civics or not Civics, that is the question.
Ignorance of Civics just might be the COVID of American Democracy.
A lot of Americans, regardless of political ideology, will not like today’s article. Today we talk about how that, huge swaths of US society are either ignorant of Civics, or willfully ignorant of Civics. The further we get from the actual knowledge regarding Civics, the more our republic is at risk. Worse yet is that if we don’t have the integrity to defend our government as intended, we lose it.
Okay… I admit it, my frustration with US political ignorance hovers near its limits. I see comments daily from people claiming to know politics and national security insights that are exclusively motivated by putting party over country. Nothing could be more, anti-American or in the more common terms of our era, as anti-patriotic.
There is no other excuse other than, that tens of millions of American voters have allowed themselves to be influenced by snake oil salesmen and their enablers to believe our actual values mean something that they don’t. This means for those still wielding knowledge, logic and integrity as the foundation of their citizenship, that we must do all possible to rebuild the resilience of our nation, based on our real values. Knowledge (Civics), logic (employing reason as the building blocks) and integrity (based on our national values) are three primary building blocks of the foundation of citizenship. The truth is, there are more than three but let’s take a lot at these three primary ones today. If we can manage to make inroads on these three items, it just may bring us full circle from our now, perpetual downward spiral, as a secure, freedom loving people.
First and foremost, the millions that I’m talking about have either forgotten, or never learned about Civics. I began learning about Civics formally, in 5th and 6th grade. Yes, I’m old and this was literally, the sixties. It mattered then as it does today because the nation was in turmoil with domestic extremism normalized as well as legitimate civil dissent against government and policies. Those days may have been more turbulent but they never, in any real way managed to threaten American democracy itself. We can’t say that now, after January 6th, 2021. The movement threatening our founding values, is alive, well and beyond dangerous as that the House of Representatives is now controlled by those who have been trying for a couple of decades, to falsely redefine American values. This doesn’t make that group, the only deviations from our actual values, but they are the only threat. I’ve covered this in several other TAT articles.
The real question is “what the hell are we going to do about it?”
I’ll take the three in order, beginning with Knowledge.
In my youth, my primary and secondary education was in my adult opinion, excellent. It was well-rounded, straightforward sound. In addition, I did have the benefit of having my father, a history and government teacher, with an extensive home library. He cultivated my interest in most of what I write about today… passionately. Both, life-long adherents to different political parties, never once let party dictate their beliefs. The family admonition was to seek truth and apply knowledge-based reason as my compass.
This was far more common a couple of generations ago but a hot, albeit smaller flame burns brightly in most Americans. The basis of what we must do, in order to be worthy of our citizenship, and as described by our most prestigious founders be, well and accurately informed. I’m not suggesting that we all must be government scholars, but I am planting a flag in my personal belief that, if you vote, based exclusively by party affiliation, you undermine your own worth as a citizen and your patriotism.
Americans, conditioned by unscrupulous political influencers, now prefer to just hold onto what their influencers tell them is true, rather than depend on knowledge. President Washington was right, yet again that teaching the “science of government” is the most important foundational education for a citizen of a democracy. I firmly believe that if grades, 6-12 students had a good solid foundational knowledge of government, these anti-American politicians and their enablers would have a harder time, “selling their BS, political ideology.”
Where I come from, we don’t think of logic as the prestigious academic discipline of scholars and philosophers, we just substitute the term, “common-sense.” While this is not entirely accurate, in many ways it’s the distillation of the prestigious discipline in laymen’s terms.
“a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration: the science of the formal principles of reasoning.”
I hail from small, mostly rural areas in Ohio and Missouri. Common-sense dictates that you must be frank with others because news travels fast of rampant dishonesty among neighbors. Swindling someone left you without community support. Everyone knows if you paid attention in school or were dedicated to wild bouts of crazy interpretations of common knowledge.
Farmers can’t just tell a buyer that they have 100 bushels of corn, if the scale said 50. Not only would reality win out, but you would never be trusted again in the county, or further. You can’t vote more than once, even before automated verification because the poll workers were neighbors of integrity who knew the voting laws. They don’t act on what dishonest political party machinery tells them the laws are, they are tested on those laws, not what the influencers say.
Common-sense has come about over millennia for human beings. It has literally kept us alive by using logic to not do stupidly dangerous things repeatedly.
Yes, common-sense is a requirement to keep our democracy alive as well.
Finally, we must address the integrity required to maintain the vision our founders bequeathed us, via courage, brilliance, commitment and perseverance.
Integrity: “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: INCORRUPTIBILITY”
Like laws, having stated national views, mean nothing at all, if not employed consistently. This highlights the impracticality of a system with only two serious political parties. Personally, I agree with Washington who held “factions” as being over time, an absolute and serious threat, to our nascent republic. By default, when there are competitors for political office, “sides” must create differences between each other in order to appeal for votes and hence, power.
“Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power.”
This quote from Shaw best illustrates the difference between knowledge defended by integrity vs. the imposition of dishonest political ideology claiming false knowledge, defended by fools.
Leadership in governance requires a full knowledge of government, honestly interpreted and defended with integrity. This is what many call, a “backbone” or moral fortitude. No matter what we call it, it requires strength of conviction, based on truth. Those attempting to redefine our national values to make it easier to acquire power are the “fools” in Shaw’s quote. They have no sustainable or moral backbone and will subvert even our democracy, for temporary power.
To briefly sum up this short essay on weaving knowledge, logic and integrity together into the safety net of our democracy, I will simply say:
“In order to preserve the best version of our republic, we must be well and accurately informed and wield that knowledge in support of sustaining our republic, as defined by our national values and defended by our integrity.”
If we don’t have the integrity to defend these elite national values, it’s the old case of, “use it or lose it.”