Pipeline, election test U.S. democracy

(November 4, 2016)

The current crisis in Western democracy reflects a deep popular distrust: we understand it is government of the people, but question whether it is by the people. What is worse, we are increasingly not convinced it is for the people at all.

It is appropriate to evoke this line from former United States president Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address as we look south and see the struggle to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the U.S. presidential election hangs in the balance.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the high water mark of the Confederacy, the turning point of the U.S. Civil War. Up until that point, it seemed Lincoln’s stand against slavery was a catastrophic mistake. Principles are fine, but at what cost?

Even after the Union victory, it took a hundred years to pass the laws that transitioned the U.S. into a country where justice before the law did not depend on race. Or so everyone still hopes — just as everyone hopes that fair treatment no longer depends upon gender.

But it all traces back to one man, one person, who chose to make a stand because it was the right thing to do.

If we distrust politicians after their election, it’s because that act of taking a stand for everyone because it is the right thing to do — not just for the people who elected you or who funded your campaign — is not a common occurrence.

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