Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass believed there are actually two constitutions, a literal constitution on paper and the other embodied by the people. This is to say that when the people are civically engaged, they literally bring the constitution to life. Complacency affects civic engagement for those who falsely think the work is done. Then there is the conflict between civic responsibility and apathy which are rooted in those citizens who believe the constitution is the problem and the other side who believe it is the remedy. 

One might be surprised to know that it is actually both. When a people are not civically engaged the constitution becomes the problem. When they are civically engaged it becomes the remedy. Of course this rule is not absolute. But generally speaking, the constitution works better for those who remain civically engaged. Starts and stops are problematic and result in having to redress issues that had seemingly been already settled. Take a look at history and add up the scorecard for arguments like “separate but equal” brought before the Supreme Court to settle the question of segregation. In 1896, Homer Plessy lost in the lower court and on appeal at the Supreme Court. Fifty-eight years later, Thurgood Marshall made it the remedy in Brown v. Board of Education. 

According to Wikipedia, there are more than 400 registered political parties in the United States. Of course Democrats and Republicans are the dominant parties but there is evidence of a third apolitical group unregistered and hidden from plan view. Apathy has a major effect on the political process and the outcome of elections as does complacency. Those not civically engaged in democracy have a major impact by their absence and misinformation is like sailing the ocean with a bad compass. 

But democracy is not a sailboat, it is a battleship. One cannot trim the sails of democracy and change course in an instant. It takes many turns of the wheel and as many as three to five nautical miles for a battleship to reverse its course. It is imperative that every American citizen stay at the wheel.

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