As a public school student of the fifties and sixties, with a keen interest in history, I remember feeling a deep admiration for the Enlightenment, and the creation of the American republic, that was in large part based on the Enlightenment's ideals. I viewed our democracy as a novel and noble endeavor in self governance, never before attempted in the course of human events.
I absorbed from my World War II prisoner-of-war father, a patriotism, based not in nationalism and militarism, but on the concept of universal human equality and the rights and responsibilities that flow from that tenet.
Later, as a student of history and political philosophy in college, I learned of the flaws incorporated into our country's founding. And as I witnessed the civil rights and women’s liberation movements I came to understand just how those flaws so adversely impacted large segments of our population, dispossessing not only people of color and women, but certain ethnic groups, and nationalities as well as those whose downtrodden circumstances of birth left them at a disadvantage.
While disappointed, I was not dismayed. It seemed that no matter which political party was in power the historical march of the nation was in the right direction. While undoubtedly at an unsatisfactory pace for many, I felt we were generally extending the rights and privileges I enjoyed to all. I agreed with Dr. King, one day we would all get to the mountaintop.
I now feel that that national ascend, which I once thought was unstoppable, has halted. Actually, as much as it pains me to say it, now at age 66, a small part me fears what until recently would have been unthinkable, that the very existence of our democracy is tenuous.
I am troubled. I'm troubled by how hate and divisiveness seemingly fuel the energy of our politics, dividing friends and even families. I’m troubled that candidates hurl at their opponents hurtful and childish insults or call non supporters deplorable. I'm troubled by efforts to twist, ignore or simply recast the facts. I'm deeply troubled by the unprecedented attacks on our free press.
But I'm most troubled that many of our elected leaders seemingly lack even a basic historical understanding of the impoverishment and uncertainty of the human condition suffered by most throughout history. They do not grasp the critical role government plays in collectively lifting us up from that state of brutality and wretchedness. How our longevity, health and prosperity, as imperfect as it may be, results from the existence of public institutions and services........ be it defense, internal security or law enforcement, be it emergency preparedness, response and relief, be it education and research, be it health services and disease prevention, be it food, drug, and other product safety, be it clean air, water and other environmental protections, be it justice, corrections and protective services, be it transportation, communications or public works.
In spite of my fears I do remain optimistic. I’m hopeful that in this November’s election we can begin to right this ship of State and save it from the tempest that we have beset upon ourselves. We need to rekindle our ascent to that mountaintop.
We don't need to make America great again.....
We need to make America, America again.
John Spear, State Representative District 92, lives in South Thomaston.