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From Art Hall, Publisher

Preserving the Dream: A Call to Uphold Our Democratic Heritage

Preserving the Dream: A Call to Uphold Our Democratic Heritage

By Art Hall

Art Hall
Publisher Art Hall
Art Hall

Our forefathers envisioned a land where people governed themselves, free from the rule of a monarch or a privileged few. This vision led to the American Revolution, a fierce struggle for independence from England. The United States was founded on principles of democracy and self-governance, becoming the most successful democracy in history. Our Founding Fathers risked their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to create this nation. Today, millions strive to enter America, leaving behind less desirable circumstances and starting anew, demonstrating the enduring appeal of the freedoms we enjoy.

When Benjamin Franklin was asked what the framers had created, he famously stated, “A Republic, if you can keep it,” highlighting the fragile nature of our democracy. Initially, I believed this statement to be a given, but recent events have made me question our commitment to preserving what we have inherited. We face challenges from authoritarian regimes in China, Russia, North Korea and Iran, where the power lies with a few at the top. China, in particular, has expressed its intention to become the dominant global power by 2049, and they are diligently working toward this goal. To maintain our freedoms, we must take these challenges seriously.

Our democracy is not only built on the sacrifices of our Founding Fathers but also on those of countless soldiers who gave their lives to protect it. Being in the journalism profession, I see firsthand the challenges America faces. Newspapers, essential for an informed citizenry, are vanishing at an alarming rate, unable to sustain themselves financially. Advertising revenue, once their lifeblood, has shifted to social media platforms that do not invest in thorough journalism. This shift undermines our journalistic endeavors, leaving the public less informed about government actions and more vulnerable to manipulation.

In the past, U.S. presidents regularly held press conferences, answering tough questions from a room full of reporters. This transparency has diminished over time. In contrast, German news outlets, which I watch and read nightly, continue this tradition of peppering their very top leaders constantly with hard-hitting questions.

Our lack of accountability at the federal level has spread to many at the state and local governments. For example, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently made a significant decision about wind-generated energy costs but was inaccessible when I sought clarification on behalf of the Herald readers. This inaccessibility exemplifies a growing disregard for public input and accountability.

Moreover, our New Jersey legislators recently voted to weaken the Open Public Records Act, despite overwhelming public opposition. Government officials now often communicate through one-way newsletters, telling citizens what they are doing rather than listening to their concerns. This top-down approach mirrors authoritarian practices rather than democratic engagement. If this trend continues, we risk becoming like the authoritarian states we oppose, where people are subjects rather than citizens.

Many lament that too many politicians change once they assume office, shifting from being one of us to viewing the public as mere subjects. Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman who studied America in the 1830s, observed that America’s greatness stemmed from its goodness, particularly its moral and religious foundations. When America ceases to be good, it will cease to be great. Our nation once thrived on a culture of mutual respect and the common good, values instilled through religious and community leaders who encouraged people to prioritize others’ welfare over their own desires.

Today, we are increasingly selfish and divided. Voltaire and Patrick Henry are credited with stating: I disagree with you vehemently, but I will defend to my death your right to say it. Such thinking exemplifies the spirit of healthy debate and respect for differing opinions. Unfortunately, this ethos is eroding. The notion that we should shout down those we disagree with is alarming and detrimental to our democracy. Constructive debate and respect for diverse viewpoints are essential for a thriving democratic society.

Despite being less of a churchgoing nation, the underlying principle remains: We must strive to understand and respect one another. When religious leaders preach love and compassion, these values permeate society, fostering a more inclusive and respectful community. To reclaim our democratic integrity, we must return to these principles of mutual understanding and respect.

In conclusion, our democracy is a precious inheritance that requires constant vigilance and active participation to preserve. We must recognize the threats posed by authoritarian regimes and the internal erosion of accountability and transparency. By reviving a culture of respect, informed debate and community engagement, we can honor the sacrifices of those who came before us and ensure that our Republic endures for future generations. Let us remember Franklin’s cautionary words and strive to keep our Republic strong and vibrant, for it is both our privilege and our responsibility.

P.S. Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations on America are understood more fully here: I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her public school system and her institutions of learning, and it was not there. I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.

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From the Bible: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalm 33:12

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