ROSE NOLEN: America should focus on its own democracy first

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 8:53 p.m. CST, Tuesday, March 8, 2011

If America wants to convince other countries that democracies are the best forms of government, then we have a little work to do. With television and the Internet displaying our dirty linen around the world, I think we need to take a little "time out" to take care of some housekeeping chores.

Although some people feel that the way we often equate freedom with license presents a great model for others to imitate, some of us find such behavior deplorable.

Although we are grateful for all of our electronic technology, for example, we are embarrassed and disgusted some of it is used to display pornography and entice pedophiles to abduct children. Yet, if we try to intervene, we are accused of trying to interfere with freedom of expression.

Every year, thousands of people are slaughtered in acts of violence in schools and workplaces and on the streets throughout the country. If we protest, we are accused of interfering with people's right to bear arms. When some of us are outraged people believe they have the right to protest at the site where others are attempting to bury their dead who have faithfully served their country and when some of us are outraged, we are accused of trying to interfere with people's right to peaceably assemble.

When we insist women have the right to make choices as to whether or not they choose to bear children, we are accused of being baby murderers. When we contend citizens have the legal right to choose whom they wish to marry, we are told we are encouraging immorality.

Maintaining a democracy is a full-time job. It requires a lot of wisdom and understanding — especially when a portion of the population considers the country a religious state. I think that would be true in any part of the world. Here, despite the fact that our Constitution clearly calls for separation of church and state, there are those who absolutely refuse to recognize that. After nearly 250 years, we're still struggling to get it right.

Oh, it sounds simple enough when you are on one side of the pond, and the people you are attempting to advise are on the other side. I simply cannot imagine how anyone in a young country like America could presume to advise an ancient civilization, such as Egypt, what it should do. Have we ever built a pyramid with our bare hands?

As a society we know very little about other cultures. I would think one would have to live in another country for a sufficient period of time in order to learn the way the people think and why they behave the way they do before one could advise them about anything. As for other countries where tribalism is a way of life, it would take a strong leader to govern such a country to keep tribes who have been at each other's throats for thousands of years from being in constant conflict.

Personally, I think we have enough unsolved problems in the United States to keep us busy. First, we need to get about the business of creating jobs. With so many of our jobs sent to other countries, we need to build new industries to replace the ones we lost. This is going to require major efforts from many people. A lot of people have been out of work for a long time. We simply don't have time to meddle in the business of other countries.

Drugs are destroying our youth. We need to launch a serious effort to get drugs off the streets. There is a strong argument among those who would advocate legalizing marijuana and other narcotics. While I am not on that side of the issue, I certainly agree a major effort should be put forth to get drugs under control.

And if we don't do any other thing in America this year, the matter of education should be addressed. We are losing serious ground in that field. We simply cannot compete with other countries unless we strengthen our educational system. Finding a way to encourage kids to stay in school is a serious issue. Persuading parents to lead the fight is another issue.

Keeping our democracy in shipshape should be our major priority. Whenever you feel self-satisfied about the country we live in, just check the crime statistics. We're obviously not happy people.

Where did it all go wrong?

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Brett Williams March 8, 2011 | 1:29 a.m.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 8, 2011 | 4:45 a.m.

Small technical point: the United States of America is not a democracy, it's a republic.

When we pledge our allegiance (an activity which seems frowned upon today by some of our citizens) we do so to a REPUBLIC, not to a DEMOCRACY.

Here's another way to look at it, and some of us definitely do. "Democracy" is a political and social condition for which we continue to strive; a republic is something that actually exists.

[Don't you just hate people who split hairs?]

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 8, 2011 | 9:05 a.m.

Ellis: I don't think you are splitting hairs at all. Every notion in Ms Nolen's article stems from her belief that the United States is a democracy; that belief shades her thoughts on many of the problems she mentioned (and most of which I also bemoan). She's been around for quite a while, and I'm surprised she doesn't understand the differences between a republic and a democracy, and how those differences affect one's thoughts about "natural rights". She doesn't understand that the LAST thing she wants is a true democracy.

But, heck....even Presidents mess this up.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks March 8, 2011 | 9:24 a.m.

She also states that "since the fact that our constitution clearly calls for separation of church and state"

Simple fact is that it does not mention that at all.

The Separation Of Church and State

The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson wrote that the 1st Amendment erected a "wall of separation" between the church and the state (James Madison said it "drew a line," but it is Jefferson's term that sticks with us today). The phrase is commonly thought to mean that the government should not establish, support, or otherwise involve itself in any religion.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 8, 2011 | 10:01 a.m.

Corey: Right!

When folks read the Bill of Rights, they generally fail to ask the question, "Who is this amendment talking to?" Is it talking to the citizen?

No, not at all. It is talking to our government. Take a look at the first and second amendments, for example: "Congress shall make no law".....; or "...shall not be abridged..." The grammar, words, and organization are directed at telling the government what it CANNOT do. It's not talking to you and me and Rose at all.

As for the separation of church and state, the first amendment simply states that Congress shall make no law establishing a religion. It didn't say anything about the states, however. It wasn't until 1925 that SCOTUS got involved and made this amendment applicable to the states (under the 14th amendment).

The first amendment may say something about government being involved in religion, but it says nothing about religion being involved in government. Many writers use the first amendment as a pretext to tell religious folks to just shut up and go home. Not likely.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub March 8, 2011 | 10:07 a.m.

I love people who hide from our faults behind the misconstrued belief that a republic is not a form of democracy. We the people democratically elect representatives--the republic part-- to democratically make our decisions for us. Sort of like letting the butcher do our dirty work, we love the meat just can't stand the killing.

However, Ms. Nolan's words are mild compared to the real truth. We are failing in almost every way. We go around the world with the rhetoric of promoting DEMOCRACY, while we are becoming a third rate country with a very big stick. We have become so complacent in our republic, that we actually believe that we can't control what our representatives do in our name. We sit back looking at the wilted carrot dangling in front of us waiting for the trickle to make it's way down. But like a dry storm, it all evaporates before getting to the ground.

As long as we continue to allow our representatives to dilute every aspect of our lives, draining every bit of capital and storing it in the estates of billionaires, we will continue sliding down the bottomless pit of divisiveness. It is surely time to take our country back before the final piece is auctioned off to the highest bidder.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 8, 2011 | 10:25 a.m.


I take it you really like allegories.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 8, 2011 | 10:27 a.m.

A republic is indeed a form of democracy.

But in a TRUE democracy, you have NO rights other than those given to you by the majority.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub March 8, 2011 | 11:52 a.m.

I take it you really like allegories. *

I find it is much more reader friendly than a bunch of quotation marks followed by name dropping.

*. Michael Williams

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 8, 2011 | 1:55 p.m.


Name dropping? Well, I guess I did drop my own name in here...after all, it's required.

But, where else?

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub March 8, 2011 | 2:07 p.m.

Michael, Sorry but I guess that allegory failed to allude to my intended target.

(Report Comment)

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