From a historical perspective, a broadly empowered citizenry has never been a feature of America. It was not part of our Founding, which reserved power to educated, wealthy, white males. It wasn't until the 19th Amendment in 1920 that women could vote. Although the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments after the Civil War abolished slavery, guaranteed all citizens equal rights under the law (excepting Native Americans), and prevented abridging the right to vote, it wasn't until the Civil Rights Act of 1965 that these principles were enforced in any consistent or meaningful way. It was only in 1952 that the Japanese were allowed by law to become citizens. In 1924 Native Americans won the legal right to vote, but only in 1957 and 1962 did court decisions make this real by preventing states from passing restrictive laws. We live at a time when our perspective is (falsely) anchored in a recent bubble of increased democracy, but that has NOT been the American norm. It is aspirational rather than traditional. From a historical perspective it is more accurate to say that the powerful elite have taken back their power and control, than it is to say they have taken power and control away from the people who have long held those powers. American is not charactierized by a steady movement toward democracy. It has been a very sporadic and inconsistent process, with bursts of progress, usually followed by serious backlash. A better future is not inevitable and will only happen if enough people believe it is possible and work to make it happen.

I absolutely share the anger and frustration felt by so many that, at the individual level, we seem relatively powerless and governed by far-away powerful people who do not listen, often seem not to care, and are certainly not bound by the moral or legal constraints you and I live by and see as normative.

However, I choose to focus my thoughts, energy, and actions on what I can do to move the needle in the right direction.


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