Democracy disciplined and enlightened is the finest thing in the world. A democracy prejudiced, ignorant, superstitious will land itself in chaos and may be self-destroyed.
I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of . . . and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?
I know, maybe better than anyone, that there are times when it seems that our nation is too divided ever to heal. There are times when we feel so different from each other that we can hardly believe that we are all part of the same family.
The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves, but we can only do this if we are willing to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here.
Things are not getting worse; things have always been this bad. Nothing is more consoling than the long perspective of history. It will perk you up no end to go back and read the works of progressives past. You will learn therein that things back then were also terrible, and what’s more, they were always getting worse. This is most inspiriting.
One of the chief virtues of a democracy . . . is that its defects are always visible.
Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order.
I am still baffled by those who feel that criticizing America is unpatriotic, a view increasingly being adopted in the United States since 9/11 as an excuse to render suspect what has always been an American right. An active, brave, outspoken (and heard) citizenry is essential to a healthy democracy.
As soon as any man says of the affairs of the State, “What does it matter to me?” the State may be given up for lost.
The adventure in popular government has gone on in this country for 150 years. And . . . it is still the greatest adventure in the world today. And still worth one’s faith, and one’s courage, and one’s perspicacity.
We owe ourselves, and the United States that we will pass off to our children, to relearn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate. . . . Those things are the nonpartisan basis of democracy, and without them you can kiss this thing goodbye.
I believe Gandhi is the only person who knew about real democracy — not democracy as the right to go and buy what you want, but democracy as the responsibility to be accountable to everyone around you. Democracy begins with freedom from hunger, freedom from unemployment, freedom from fear, and freedom from hatred. To me, those are the real freedoms on the basis of which good human societies are based.
Democracy is based on the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.
Intellectual and political leadership should be neither elitist nor populist; rather it ought to be democratic, in that each of us stands in public space, without humiliation, to put forward our best visions and views for the sake of the public interest.
Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued. They quarreled. Eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity — the idea that for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.