“Vox populi, vox Dei.”
My kids study Latin as part of their homeschool work (I know, I’m a mean teacher). One of their books last year contained the above Latin saying, which means, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” Now, while I don’t agree that people speak in place of God, I can see the heart of this statement in both a democracy like our own and in the ancient Roman Republic.
For several centuries prior to Julius Caesar’s rise to power in 27 BC, ancient Rome was governed by a republic. Two elected officials called consuls presided over the government, serving an annual term–in this way, neither could drift into becoming a king or dictator. The consuls were advised by the Senate, who who served life terms, and came from the patricians, the wealthiest male citizens. The common people, or plebeians, had their own Council to pass laws and elect some of their own leaders.
Although both men and women were considered citizens, only men could vote. And for much of the republic’s history, the plebeians had very little say. Most of the lawmakers and leaders came from the patrician class. The privilege to vote belonged to wealthy male landowners. These people had powerful voices to establish laws and government for everyone.
I imagine our founding fathers had some of the principles of early Rome in mind when they created the Constitution governing the new United States of America. They must have debated back and forth on the best ways to ensure against tyranny and domination by any one individual, party, or branch of government. In the end, they chose to make our nation a democracy, in which every citizen was asked to participate in the government by electing representatives and voting on laws.
Since that time, through the courageous work of many determined people, the right to vote has expanded to include groups originally excluded, like citizens who didn’t own land, black men, women, Native Americans, immigrants who become citizens. Now, as long as you are a U.S. citizen aged 18 or over and can claim residency in one of the states, you can register to vote. You have a voice.
That nature of democracy makes our voices critical to the success of our government. Our leaders are chosen from among us, based on our votes. This kind of power brings responsibility, both for elected leaders and for us, the voters. How can we make wise decisions if we haven’t studied our choices? Or if we have no idea how our government even works?
Too often we abdicate our duty. I didn’t have time to register. The line to vote was too long. My vote won’t matter anyway. I just picked the candidates my boyfriend/ mother/ pastor/ favorite celebrity picked. I didn’t have a clue, so I guessed.
Then, when things don’t seem to be going well for our country, we sit back and complain. We divide ourselves into parties and factions, pointing fingers. We rely on news and social media to tell us what we need to know, rather than trying to find out the truth for ourselves.
How can we make our voices matter? How can we make them powerful? Here are some ideas:
- Learn about democracy and the principles that underlie our government. Why is our Constitution written the way it is? How do the branches of government work? What kinds of skills are required for the different offices?
- Figure out your own principles. What matters to you as a citizen? What are your ideals? What rights, beyond those protected in the Constitution, are most important to you? What role do you think government should play in daily life? How much power should be allocated to local vs. state. vs. federal government? How can we best meet the needs of our citizens? Even those very different from us?
- Do the work for yourself. While it’s a whole lot easier to let other people tell you what to think and how to vote, I’d challenge you to find out for yourself. Listen to the candidates when you get the chance. Read about their stances on different issues. Research the issues more yourself if you don’t fully understand the repercussions.
- Treat others with respect. I find much of the political talk on social media to be extremely repellent. And full of faulty logic, incidentally. Things like, Republicans support racist policies. Therefore, anyone who votes Republican is racist. I’m sure, unfortunately, some Republicans do support racist policies, and, unfortunately, some Republicans probably are racist. But it’s certainly not true of all, or even most, of them. The same goes for Democrats. No one is perfect. No one’s political ideologies are perfect. And by dividing ourselves deeper into stereotyped parties, we’ll find it increasingly difficult to resolve anything and make progress. Hopefully each of us has put effort and thought into deciding what we think politically. We should be able to enter into conversations over differences without pointing fingers and calling names. Remember the Golden Rule? Treat others the way you want to be treated. Not everyone agrees with you, either.
- Get involved. That might mean showing up to vote, or it could mean more. Volunteering at your local polling place. Supporting a candidate in their bid for office. Maybe even running yourself. Whatever you pick, remember that, as a democracy, our government fails if the people don’t participate. After all, it’s the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
All right, I have to get down off my soapbox now to go vote. Ironically enough, I haven’t followed my own advice yet. Earlier today, I left my three big kids at home, loaded the baby up in the car, and drove the quarter-mile to my polling place. But the line was out the door, it was raining, and there wasn’t an express line for stay-at-home moms. That’s okay. We all have other places we need to be. I’ll get my chance soon. There’s still time for you, too!
In other quick news, I did decide to take the plunge into NaNoWriMo. We’re only on day 6, but I’ve already gotten in more than 8000 words. Even if the month ended right now and I didn’t reach the 50k goal, I’d be thrilled with just the progress I’ve made so far.
Also, the Kindle version of my short story The Tank is now live on Amazon.com. I’m in the process of approving the print proof, so once that’s done, a print version will by available also.
If you read The Tank, I’d be forever grateful if you could leave a review. (Unless you’re related to me… Sorry, Mom.) It’s hard to convince people who know nothing about me to take a gamble on my work when there aren’t any reviews.
Signing off for now, friends! I hope November is treating you well, and I’ll update you again on my progress in a few weeks. 🙂
Image credit: Pexels.com, CC0 license.