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“A republic…if we can keep it.”

On the final day of the American Constitutional Convention of 1787, as folks gathered in colonial Philadelphia to await news of what exactly our founders had crafted, Elizabeth Willing Powel, a well known salonaire of that era and a close confidant of George Washington, inquired of Ben Franklin, “What have we created, Dr. Franklin, a republic or a monarchy?”

His famous reply: “A republic…if you can keep it.”

Little could Franklin have known that he also would be speaking to most countries around the globe 235 years later, for the world now anxiously nurtures increasingly fragile democratic experiments in the face of expanding authoritarianism.

“We think too much. We feel too little. More than machines. We need humanity.”

Would that each politician absorb Charlie Chaplin’s powerful exhortation to defend democracy in The Great Dictator (1941) — as she or he begins to parse truth from falsehood, to put principle over personal gain. 

“Get up there with that lady on top of the Capital dome, that lady that stands for liberty! Take a look at this country through her.”

Remember Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Witness again the relentless determination and passion with which he fought  –  right up to the last syllable of his voice  –  for freedom and democracy. 

To highlight one of the current threats to American democracy, here is a recent interview of Sue Gordon, for decades the #2 at the CIA. She clarifies why thoughtless attention to classified documents threatens national security.

Afghanistan, 1970’s by Luke Powell

Historian Heather Cox Richardson’s September 7 column shows clearly how a Republican minority is severely undermining the integrity of what is still the world’s most respected democracy.

As for the rest of the planet, here’s a superb speech investigating how the world is currently handling threats to democracy. The eloquent prime minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, gave the commencement address at Harvard University this past June.

To explore some subtle perceptions about how governments might best hold on to democracy, here’s a duel interview in 2021 of Dr. James Thurber, professor of Government and founder and director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies (CCPS) at American University in Washington, D.C. and American-Polish author and journalist Anne Applebaum.

Here, as well, is how Ms. Applebaum describes current threats to democracy, in a half-hour interview with a leading New York financial firm.

The World in Moroccan Tile / by Charlotte Bassin

In this anthropocene era, Democracy, like tap water, must be appreciated wholeheartedly, every day. We need to work tirelessly to preserve each blessing.

One of the more accessible measures of appreciating democracy is to know it’s recent history. Here’s a reminder of how the cataclysmic earthquake of 1755 in Lisbon changed the way the world lived, introducing the modern era and the re-birth of democratic governments.

Even in the highly complex and fiercely contended politics of India, there can be common cause and grace, as indicated in this recent article “Onam, the true celebration of humanity” by Shashi Tharoor.

“We have a political system that betrays the fundamental idea of a representative democracy.”

Here is the concerned eloquence of a professor and of an actress  –  Lawrence Lessig (2015) and Jennifer Lawrence (2019)  –  who, in highly complimentary videos only a few years apart, offer stark insight on the diminishment of democracy and how we, you and I, still might rescue it  –  as Charlie Chaplin so ardently urged us above.