The Inherent Strength of a Democracy

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In the movie Juarez, a 1939 film that dramatized the life of Benito Juarez, Mexico’s “George Washington,” a screen writer drafted words for the freedom fighter that send a message to every democracy today, “If a Monarch misrules; the people change… If a Presidente misrules; the people change the Presidente…” The film debuted on the eve of World War II when 20th Century “monarchy,” — fascism — had installed itself as one of the most destructive and murderous forces the world had ever endured.

In our current era, when a president’s ad-lib remarks have the means to alter world events, when inflation is forcing Americans to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table, when our allies wonder whether this administration has the courage and stamina to confront an ever more powerful China, one could easily question the future of our nation.
But as the script from Juarez reminds us, the inherent strength of a democracy over a monarchy is that its citizens have the means to peacefully change their leaders if they suffer through failed leadership. One suspects our enemies abroad may be hoping that we will not exercise that right — from the belief that we are distracted by the continuing aftershocks of COVID or seeking to cope with slashed earning power at the gas pump and the supermarket.
We cannot afford to grow weary or indifferent to our democracy, for the alternatives are unimaginable. Britain’s wartime leader Winston Churchill is attributed to acknowledging that “democracy is the worse form of government… except for all the others.”
His observation remains as vivid a reminder of the foibles and strengths of democracy as that of the Hollywood screen writer who used his astute narrative to celebrate the life of Juarez.
Today’s “monarch,” Russian President Vladimir Putin, has made his nation a global pariah, committing his armed forces to a war that has crossed the line into genocide. His citizens will suffer from this stain on their national fabric for generations to come. His citizens have no recourse but either to support his war or become silent, sullen, and unwilling accomplices.
Juarez would not need a screenwriter’s script to offer insight into our form of government. Citizens in a democracy have no reason nor right to be passive participants. They need to be active and engaged in deciding their leaders: it is a right that has been secured by the sacrifice and courage of those who have defended our nation. Remember these words every Election Day for only you can direct the future of our nation: “If a Monarch misrules; the people change…. If a Presidente misrules; the people change the Presidente…”
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