I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
--from "An Atlas of the Difficult World," Adrienne Rich
If you're like me, you've been attempting--in vain--to "unplug" from the national media since Tuesday. To the winner goes the spin, and I'd rather ponder the significance of the electoral results on my own for now.
But I do strongly believe that we, as dissenting patriots, need to discern a way forward for ourselves. Constitutional democracy enables pluralistic societies by protecting minority rights of all kinds. The American experiment has succeeded for more than 225 years because we have continually advanced in our understanding of what pluralism means, why it is just and right, and why it makes societies stronger. We began as a nation governed by white, property-owning (often slave-holding) men. Consider how far we have come.
And then make the pro-Constitution arguments in public, private, everywhere, as often and as passionately as you can. We have a responsibility to remind ourselves and others of what the Constitution is and what it protects. The other day, a fellow student asked me why I so vehemently argued that Bush should not govern solely according to his "mandate." If a majority of Americans believe that he ought to govern according to his religious beliefs, and if they voted that way, why shouldn't he do it?
The easy answer: that pesky thing called the Bill of Rights,and that often-difficult but immeasurably precious American diversity. But the question indicates perhaps the saddest result of the current ascendancy: a certain kind of Constitutional amnesia.
In my next post, I'll briefly discuss two minority-rights developments that I think we should watch closely. Until then, I'll be thinking about dissent: the atlas of the difficult world between bitterness and hope.