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Democracy fails when our sense of community fails | Letters | dailyadvance.com – The Daily Advance

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Updated: October 7, 2021 @ 1:44 am

How vital to a nation is its citizens’ sense of community? We Americans belong to various communities: church, school, political party, profession. Each community depends on how strongly individuals find identity in membership. Most of us find it meaningful to affirm, “I am a Methodist” or “I am an electrician” or “I am a Rotarian.” Today, however, to say, “I am an American” expresses uncertain identity; our political factions have concretized so deeply that to claim membership in a political party may seem more meaningful than to claim citizenship in the United States.
Our nation was not founded on an assumption that its political life would be generated by factions. Yet since the election of 1800, our politics have existed by means of intense factional struggle. During these traditional struggles (and even during the Civil War) our citizens have maintained a bedrock commitment to democracy. Remarkably this commitment has vitalized our political competitions, expanding their franchise and energizing them with insights, expectations, opportunities.
Such commitment is possible only within a sense of community whose essential aspirations are expressed in the American inspired French revolutionary motto: “liberty, equality, fraternity (comity).” To this set we should add “justice.” These four ideals are integrated, in that no one of them can be achieved without the other three being achieved. What good is equality before the law if the law is not just? How can liberty prosper in a society alienated, without comity?
A failure of democratic comity most threatens us today. If we surrender to current infantile rage, our national community’s empathetic respect among citizens will vanish. Then we Americans can anticipate an end to our traditional struggles in the victory of a cultish despotism. Democracy’s rubble will make evident how wicked our faithlessness has been.
Contact Bobby Burns at [email protected] and 329.9572.

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