It has become very clear to me that lots of people don't appreciate government.
Every time political discussions break out here, we enjoy a good fight!
At the risk of provoking another one, I want to share a passage from Cornel West's challenging book, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism (2004).
This reading, excerpted from the chapter entitled "The Deep Democratic Tradition in America," is important it seems to me, especially in view of the manner in which Katrina tore away the blinders protecting mainstream America from a reality check about urban poverty.
To many, our democratic system seems so broken that they have simply lost faith that their participation could really matter. The politics of self-interest and catering to narrow special interests is so dominant that so many ask themselves, Why vote?
The disaffection stems both from the all-too-true reality of the corruptions of our system and from a deeper psychic disillusionment and disappointment. The political discourse is so formulaic, so tailored into poll-driven, focus-group-approved slogans that don't really say anything substantive or strike at the core of our lived experience; the lack of authenticity of discourse--and the underlying lack of gravitas, of penetrating insight and wisdom on the part of politicians--is numbing. But we must keep in mind that the disgust so many feel comes from a deep desire to hear more authentic expressions of insights about our lives and more genuine commitments to improving them. Many of us long for expressions of real concern both about the pain of our individual lives and about the common good. . . as opposed to the blatant catering to base interests and to narrow elite constituencies. We long for a politics that is not about winning a political game but about producing better lives. . . .
Our national focus has become so dominated by narrow us-versus-them discourse that it has all but drowned out authentic debate over issues. Though many voters are mobilized by the increased polarization of our party politics, there is an underlying disgust about the preoccupation of our political leaders with partisan warfare.
The uninspiring nature of our national political culture has only enhanced the seductiveness of the pursuit of pleasure and of diverting entertainments, and too many of us have turned inward to a disconnected, narrowly circumscribed family and social life. White suburbanites and middle-class blacks (and others) are preoccupied with the daily pursuit of the comfort of their material lives. In many cases they literally wall themselves off into comfortable communities, both physical and social, in which they can safely avert their eyes from the ugly realities that afflict so many of our people. Because they are able to buy the cars and take the vacations they want, they are all too willing to either disregard the political and social dysfunctions afflicting the country or accept facile explanations for them.
The black community is increasingly divided, the upper and middle classes as against the feeble institutions of the inner cities. Too much of the black political leadership has become caught up in the mainstream political game and has been turning away from the deep commitment to a more profound advocacy for poor blacks. Meanwhile a generation of blacks who have suffered from the cataclysmic breakdown of the civic and social structure in inner cities are consigned to lives of extreme alienation and empty pursuit of short-term gratification.