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For the week of October 11 through 17, 2000

Good ol’ USA

The juxtaposition of news on television has provided unforgettable civics lessons for Americans who are inclined to regard their government with ho-hum indifference.

From Yugoslavia, pictures vividly showed how hundreds of thousands of demonstrators packed the streets of Belgrade to topple the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic by force to regain their freedom.

In Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israelis and Palestinians drew blood in their own desperate, clawing and confrontational battle to establish their rights to land.

And in dozens of other lands in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, skirmishes between authoritarian regimes and people hungry for a breath of liberty douse the landscape with blood.

But here at home, ballots, not blood and bullets, rule as elected officials in city hall, the statehouse and Washington come and go with little more violence than abuse of the truth in their campaigns.

Americans have become complacent about their liberties. American voters register and vote in smaller percentages, while cynicism grows.

Complaints that candidates and their programs are mediocre are insufficient reason for not voting. What a howl voters would raise if suddenly they were denied the chance to even vote for lackluster politicians.

Naturalized citizens who’ve fled oppression are astonished by the spectacle of Americans being offered enticements other than their civic responsibility to vote—postcard ballots, proposals for Sunday voting, free food at registration desks.

Americans who’ve had the good fortune to visit countries where freedoms of religion, press, speech and assembly are in short supply or non-existent, and free elections are a mockery, return home with a more passionate appreciation of their form of government and how it’s chosen.

The violent images abroad are reminders that even in this time of unparalleled prosperity and peace in America, we should not take the benefits of democracy for granted.


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Copyright 2000 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.