Democracy requires listening, self-reasoning


As we welcome a new year after just ushering out another 12 months that seemingly raced by, let's take a moment to reflect on our democracy and our wonderful country.

Our 21st century way of life pushes all of us to move faster and accomplish more in a shorter time.

We are a busy society of multi-taskers. In the midst of a global recession where many remain jobless and financially strapped, citizens still hurry about from one endeavor to another.

With life's current pace, as a democratic society, we've let ourselves become intellectually lazy. Isn't it ironic that in an information age, with instant news and chatter literally at our fingertips (or thumb-tips as the case may be), we forget to think for ourselves. We follow the shortcut that allows others to tell us what to think.

We make our decisions based upon talking heads, sound bytes, blurbs and blogs. We have let ourselves become a nation divided instead of following Kentucky's motto, "United we stand, divided we fall." We let labels determine what we think rather than reaching our own conclusions. We are red-state-versus-blue-state, liberal-versus-conservative, religious-versus-atheist.

Our preoccupation with living rather than thinking leads us to lock step with whatever spokesperson, consultant or expert we happen to identify with.

Then, we let the labeling lead us to stereotyping those who disagree, and we soon degenerate to name-calling. In a civil society, we need a civil debate about important issues. We can't debate unless we understand the issues. We can't understand the issues unless we think about them.

When our great nation was formed, our founders based our system on their reasoned thoughts about what would work best. They often disagreed, as evidenced by the Constitutional debates and early Continental Congress records, editorials and letters to the editor of the time. However, they had a civil debate and reasoned differences and still came up with our democratic republic.

The difference between that model and current times is that our forebearers listened, read and thought before reaching conclusions.

Early citizens did not believe Jefferson was right because he talked the loudest on the news, or they didn't accept Hamilton's views because he had more coverage in the media. Our early citizens reasoned to their conclusions after thinking about an issue or proposition and after considering opposing points of view. Without knowing it, they followed one of Steven Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": "Seek first to understand and then to be understood."

We don't all have to be philosophers (thank goodness), but we can all exercise our God-given intellectual ability and read, listen and then conclude.

So, as we make our New Year's resolutions, let's all resolve to slow down a bit. Read a book, not a blurb. Listen to your neighbor, not a talking head. Think, don't just accept someone else's 15-second opinion. Let's form our own conclusions and do our own individual part to maintain our civil society with civil debate and maintain our great country as the democratic model for the rest of the world.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and to think about it.