The Year We Saved Our Democracy

It is we the people who must save it

Kevin Donovan

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Image by Maria Dryfhout / purchased by the author

History can be gauzy — these experiences we have of the there-and-then within the here and now.

We haven’t mastered time travel yet, and so we struggle and strive to imagine what it must have been like at a time and place far from our own, when fellow humans presumably just like us faced a challenge which, in hindsight, seems unfathomable today.

How, for example, did those men bring themselves to storm the beaches in Normandy in 1944? Could we have done that?

How did someone like John Lewis bring himself to cross a bridge in 1965 with the knowledge there was a good chance he would be beaten to death by a mob? Could we have done that?

How did legions of women continue to fight and persist against the systemic misogyny that attempted to deny them every opportunity to which they were entitled over the last century-and-a-half? Could we have done that?

Many historical examples point to a larger question: What was it about the many men and women that gave them the courage to put their lives on the line for freedom and democracy? These were generally people who we would consider “normal” — people just like us — but we still wonder, could we have done that?

What if we were put into a situation where our basic human rights were under threat, and standing up put our lives in jeopardy? Imagine a woman in Congress who defies her peers to stand up for democracy, unleashing a flood of death threats upon her and her family. Then recognize that there is no need to imagine it because this woman is Liz Cheney, an example of American-inspired courage who transcended the cowards around her.

She is not alone; she’s simply one of the more visibly courageous, but in these times especially, greater visibility requires greater courage — a circumstance that makes it easy to retreat into invisibility. But how not alone is she? How many of us are willing to remain invisible, while the visible endure the threats and take the risks?

We the people of 2024 America have not needed to give our lives for democracy, and throughout history, we can be sure that the majority of people who rose up to protect it didn’t think they would either. They…

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Kevin Donovan

Where there is great fear, there is no empathy. Where there is great empathy, there is no fear.