Opinion: Self-government is not a right, but a duty

Katelyn Fecteau

Michael J. Doyle

A ’16

[email protected]

We have lost, if we ever had it, the democratic nature of our republic. I think this should be a period free from corruption, both illegal and legal (through lax or non-existent campaign finance laws). From foreign interference to collusion in our elections, we have seen a degradation of American democratic institutions in my lifetime. To be a truly free society, we must have influence over those who represent us and the due diligence to use that power responsibly by holding them accountable. As misguided and flawed as any human beings on this planet, our Founding Fathers (and mothers) actualized as best they could the idea of a free and open society.

The 18th century seems so distant and the concessions (such as slavery) that seem so disparate to the ideals of liberty, self-government and (relative) toleration beg us to ask, why should we respect these men and the supposed freedom they stood for? To follow a question with a question, how can our leaders and citizens in the present tout these United States as a free and open society when our contradictions are as bad if not worse (in scale, at least)?

The world is not black and white, as much as we would like it to be, as much as we try to make it so, it is not. We exist in the grey of morality every day in the choices we make between others and ourselves. That is why we must be unequivocally diligent in our duty to higher thought. It is no small feat. In fact, it could be argued that it is a part of the struggle of our entire species to evolve and adapt to an environment that is experiencing rapid change. Change so rapid that we are not prepared for it. This oath to higher thinking, in regards to the government, must be bound within the ideals of liberty, self-government, toleration and equality. How can we claim to be the world leader of freedom if our people are not free? The creators of our Constitution and the great leaders throughout history that have followed them understood that the Constitution was to be an embodiment of ideas, not merely a textual guide to government. With even the slightest of digging into the creation of our government, one can see that the Constitution is much more than a document which establishes and sets bounds for the government. It is a physical manifestation of the idea of what government should be. With the tools available to them, the founders did the best they could, even though many of them held very contradictory views to what we might (and other founders did) consider to be the definitions of “freedom” and “self-government”.

Self-government is not merely a right, but a duty. To be worthy of the responsibility of deciding which direction our nation goes in, one must have some degree of self-government not in the sense of democracy, but an introspective view of one’s self as to determine the source of one’s thoughts. This requires a great deal of courage and is a pillar upon which an open and democratic society must stand upon. But it is also, and of course I am biased by experience, a path to a richer, more fulfilled life for all citizens.

After the horrible events in Parkland, Florida, I felt obliged to rewrite part of this and to include this disclaimer: the right to be safe in one’s own country is the most basic freedom a society can protect and we are all duty bound not only to protect each other from harm, but to hold accountable the government whose duty it is to protect us. The student survivors of this single mass shooting have turned into activists. These high school students have revived hope in myself and those of us who wish to see the United States be the equal and free nation it can and should be. I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow citizens and all of those activists who have laid the path for them to take action. These patriots are fulfilling their duty not only to themselves, but to the rest of us, to hold the “thoughts and prayers” politicians accountable for all those who have been victims of gun violence in this country. I’ll see y’all on March 24 at the March for Our Lives.