The Botereid

Saturday, October 16, 2004

deliberation day

I went to some of the New Haven Deliberation Day meetings today, and I must say that I was inspired: I watched eight 'regular' Americans discussing manifold issues, all orbiting foreign and economic policy, for a few hours in a civilized manner, every person departing with a better insight into some of the dire issues of our time. But most impressive was not any one person's knowledge -- I wouldn't say that there were any experts on these topics in the group. The vitality of the event, of the people, is what impressed me. Here were people with no vested interest besides the exercise of citizenship, congregating to discover more about the world around them. The passion to know more was gripping.

Americans are often called narrow-minded. It's deserved at times, and of some, just as many foreigners deserve it well. But it was in hiding today. Every single person was receptive and respectful, opinionated yet open. The discussions swerved from terrorism to the Patriot Act to Iraq to taxes to outsourcing to values, but with substance. People weren't there to bicker, but to learn. And everyone participated. (Well, save for one frumpy woman who seemed a tad uninformed -- but that was why she was there, wasn't it?) Topics caromed about, collecting clarity with each strike. After each question, I felt that each person in the group better grasped, if not the issue, the question.

If one sticks by the old stand-by "government by the people" definition of democracy, then these meetings were an act of democracy. If there were more of this going on, our electorate would have far more of my trust. But to tell the truth, seeing these folk today, it already has gained a bit.


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