Nearly twelve score years ago, dozens of courageous statesmen convened to both define and solve a problem that had plagued mankind since the dawn of our species: How best shall a nation of free and independent human beings govern themselves?
The learned men who tackled this question were lawyers, philosophers, soldiers, and scientists, but above all, they were perceptive students of history. They observed that systems of government in which power was bequeathed to the favored few were doomed to failure. "The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs," Thomas Jefferson affirmed. Nor were others born "booted and spurred."
With this quintessential observation permeating throughout the often contentious deliberations of the Second Continental Congress, a novel hypothesis was advanced - one which, as Carl Sagan wrote, was "breathtaking, radical, and revolutionary." The theory was that "not kings, not priests, not big-city bosses, not dictators, not a military cabal, not a de facto conspiracy of the wealthy, but ordinary people, working together, [could] rule nations."
Thus, after achieving independence from Great Britain, a victory garnered through heroism and bloodshed, the Founders devised, and our fledgling country embarked upon, the greatest scientific experiment that this world has ever seen: Democracy.
Since the United States of America was hypothesized, we - her citizens - have consistently put our country to the test. We've fought wars against others and amongst ourselves. We've passed numerous laws -- most proper, some improper -- and occasionally repealed them. After periods of injustice marred by violence and vexation, we've extended rights and liberties to those who were originally denied them. Yet throughout this mess of daunting trials and harsh tribulations, for well over two centuries, democracy, and the freedoms which give it life, have endured. Indisputable evidence that supports the hypothesis of America.
Within the American experiment, we have authored countless other, comparatively smaller studies. "Every act of Congress, every Supreme Court decision, every Presidential National Security Directive, every change in the Prime rate is an experiment. Every shift in economic policy... every toughening of criminal sentences is an experiment," Carl Sagan noted.
In these ongoing trials, we are the researchers. We are also the subjects. Thus, it is of paramount importance that we pay heed to the data emerging from these investigations, and that we be informed enough to properly scrutinize whatever conclusions are made. Otherwise, instead of enlightened participants, we are debased to mere guinea pigs. The cost of education is trivial compared to the cost of ignorance, Thomas Jefferson believed.
Every four years, we get a chance to dramatically reshape our government as we see fit. In other words, we get a chance to fulfill our duties as discerning scientists in the greatest scientific experiment on the planet. We have the opportunity to analyze and interpret the data collected over the previous four years, to draw conclusions, and finally to decide how the experiment should proceed.
Genuine patriots don't balk at this indispensable opportunity, one that Americans have given their lives for, and still give their lives for. Real patriots ask questions. Real patriots apply critical thinking to politics, policy, and ideology. Real patriots are skeptical of their elected officials. Real patriots educate themselves on the issues. Above all else, real patriots participate in the experiment.
Real patriots vote.