With an election looming the likes of which we baby boomers have never seen, some election officials are predicting record turnout… the likes of which this nation has never seen. In this Boomer Opinion piece, communications specialist Larry Checco writes from his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, about how much power we have to decide who wields power over us.
Power is like a greased pig: hard to grab hold of… and often even more difficult to hold onto.
Power is fungible, not immutable. It can be replaced or redirected… and often, if not always, it is.
Fact is, history is littered with once all-powerful rulers who either didn’t understand power’s fungibility or were so blinded by their own limitless authority that they became incapable of reading the tea leaves that would lead to their demise.
Think Julius Caesar, stabbed 23 times by his Senate colleagues. French King Louis XVI, guillotined after being convicted by French revolutionaries for conspiring with foreign powers. Benito Mussolini, summarily executed, then hung upside down, his body beaten and shot at by his once adoring countrymen and women.
Hyperbolic examples perhaps, but again, these were some of the most powerful people to have lived, people who held absolute sway over the very lives of those they reigned over… until they didn’t.
The lesson? Power can be taken away just as easily as it can be given, regardless of who holds it.
As a baby boomer raised in the 1950s and 60s, I grew up in a lower middle-class family. My father went to work in “work clothes.”
It was drilled into me from the time I can remember that I needed to pay deference to people in high places, be they police officers, clergy, anyone who had a college education or, for that matter, wore a shirt and tie to work.
In short, I was taught to mindlessly respect authority figures, whether they were worthy and deserving of my respect or not.
It took me a while to realize that power can be wielded responsibly or irresponsibly, that it has no relationship to intelligence, talent, or merit. I came to realize that power, exercised mindlessly, destructively, or immorally can lead to terrible things.
Americans are beginning to understand this. Now, perhaps more than ever, they’re beginning to question power, whether it’s exercised in government, corporate boardrooms, religious institutions, or anywhere else.
They’re beginning to see that the person(s) with power doesn’t get to decide what is right and what is wrong. It is they, the people, who decide what kind of country they want to live in. Through our representatives, we, the people, make the laws. It is up to those in power— those the people elect —to make just and equitable laws, to enforce those laws, and to live within those laws themselves.
Make no mistake, power is a necessary evil. It is the bedrock upon which societies, good or bad, exist. Without someone in power making decisions, we’d all live in absolute chaos. Some might look at our country today and say we already do.
Yet, it is we Americans who bestow power to our elected representatives via the ballot box. Conversely, we are the ones who can take it away.
“When people unite to demand democracy and the rule of law, even repressive regimes can be stopped in their tracks,” writes Rosa Brooks, co-founder of the Transition Integrity Project.
In short, if you don’t like the kind of power currently being wielded, especially by your national, state or local governments, do something.
Make your voice heard.
At the very least, VOTE!
It’s not only your civic right. It’s your civic duty.
It’s your power.
Larry Checco (c) 2020