Sunday, May 17, 2020

Democracy is NOT a Spectator Sport

FDR said in his March 4, 1933 Inaugural, "the only thing we have to fear is, fear itself."

My father and I were once walking around Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park.  We passed a man who was looking down at the ground, a hangdog look on his face.  

Dad brightened and said, "How you doin'?"

The man straightened up and met my father's smile with his own.  Later, I asked my dad, "Who was that man?"  Dad replied, "I don't know.  He just looked like he needed cheering up."

My father was rightly selected as a morale non-com with the 82nd ABN DIVN in WWII.  Dad knew that guy needed what we all need right now -- cheering up.

We were walking to see the Liberty Bell, in Independence Hall, where we reached out and touched it.  He and my mom taught me what it means to be an American, starting with first principles, set in Philadelphia.

Decisions made by brave, brilliant men rocked our world, commencing in Philadelphia in 1776 and 1787, in what is now Independence National Historical Park.  

Our right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" is only as strong as our souls, courts and our elected officials. 

Our "republic, if you can keep it," as Ben Franklin told the lady in 1787, is stressing. 

We choose life over death. We express hope over despair. And we take care of our own. 

Americans love our country and respect each other and want everyone to succeed; we reject hatred.

After City Manager's righteous March 20 COVID-19 lockdown order, and similar orders from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., we saw some of the best and worst of government. 

Now our maladroit City Commission just laid an egg, deciding to cancel Independence Day fireworks without allowing public comment.  

No Commissioner was in the room. They were hooked up with "Zoom," a newfangled software thingie that lets us see how bored and scared they look.

Denying public comment on fireworks was intentional -- not an agenda item. No public comment was requested when the absent-minded Commissioners -- all of them elsewhere -- voted in lockstep to support the ukase of the City Manager, who recently referred to the city in the first person, as in "I," as if he were Louis XIV. Was this hasty vote to cancel fireworks without public comment a sin against democracy, a crime against civility, and a tort against the Constitution, or all three? You tell me.

Robert Kennedy said, "if the Bill of Rights was written in the style of St. Paul, it would say, 'but the most important of these is speech."

Our First Amendment rights must be respected, not neglected.

City officials seemingly "too big for their britches" made fireworks decisions without accurate information or public involvement -- May 11 vote to cancel July 4, 2020 Independence Day fireworks in St. Augustine Florida:
  1. Without public comment. Illegal. (Florida Statute 286.114(2); Article I, Section 24 of our Florida Constitution; First and Ninth Amendments)  
  2. Based on falsehood -- City Manager's unsourced bald assertions that three cities had already cancelled fireworks: Flagler Beach, Jacksonville Beach and Daytona Beach.  Truth: Only one (Flagler Beach). 
  3. No pros/cons presented.  
  4. No alternatives discussed.  Texas sage Jim Hightower says, "They're stealing the alternatives, folks!"
RFK said to his staff, "Don't tell  me what I should have done, tell me what I should do now!" 

Democracy is not a spectator sport. 

We need new, responsive City Commissioners,  City Charter, City Manager, City Attorney.  Let's declare independence from bossism, impulsivity, impulse-buying, favoritism, fear and incompetence.  We need officials who will appeal to what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature."  Enough senseless sellouts.

Support St. Augustine National Historical Park and Seashore.

With kindest regards, I am,
Sincerely yours,
Ed Slavin

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