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It's Time for us to Pay Democracy Her Rent

Charley Williams | Published on 6/27/2024
It’s time for us to pay democracy her rent
Orlando Sentinel, June 27, 2024, p16
By Charley Williams
Charley wants to thank Leaguer Anne Mooney, collaborator/editor for his editorial, plus Ann Patton and Joy Dickinson, LWVOC Communications team...teamwork, the LWVOC way!

The Fourth of July is our chance to reflect upon our nation’s genesis and its Founding Fathers, who brought their newly minted democracy onto the world stage. It is a participatory democracy. “We the People” is the mantra for our popular sovereignty.

Each of us has a duty to keep the American experiment thriving, relevant and healthy. As child advocate Dr. Marian Wright Edelman noted, each of us needs to pay civic rent or service for the privilege of living in this country. She cast it as a duty, “not just something you do in your spare time.”
Democracy is fragile. If we fail to “pay the rent” by not showing up to cast an informed ballot, our participatory democracy will wither and fail.

Each of us has a duty to study the issues, ask questions and cast a ballot as an informed and engaged voter. The informed citizen voter honors our democratic heritage. Today, every citizen has the right to vote, but too few Americans are exercising that privilege. In addition, Florida’s restrictive voting procedures and attempts at outright suppression are making it harder for many Floridians to vote. That’s a bad sign for any democracy.

In today’s world, a critical part of “paying rent” and performing civic service involves digging deeper to separate fact from fiction. True service means working harder to seek the truth and call out the intended lie. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “I will not allow anyone to walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

The informed voter will take the time to develop the skills needed to navigate the world of media literacy. We would do well to follow the example of Finland, where children learn critical media literacy skills from an early age. They are taught to ask questions such as, “What’s the purpose of this article?” “What are the author’s central claims?” “How and where was the article written?” “Was this video clip taken out of context and deceptively edited?” “How do search algorithms work?”

One all-important question we should ask ourselves is: What difference will it make if I don’t vote? The vacuum created by your failure to “pay the rent” will be filled by the vote of another, perhaps someone hungry for influence and power — kryptonite for a nation founded on the concept of popular democracy.

Our next election is Aug. 20, Florida’s statewide primary, with races for school board, judges, Florida House and Senate. There is something for every voter on the ballot regardless of party affiliation. Mark your calendars now. In Orange County, you can order your vote-by-mail ballot now from OCFElections.gov Postage will be paid by Orange County. After you mail it, check the box: civic rent paid.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Sooner or later, we all sit down to a banquet of consequences.” The July 4 rent is coming due. It’s time for us all to pay up.

Charley Williams of Winter Park is past president of the League of Women Voters of Orange County.
The nonpartisan League of Women Voters website, www.vote411.org, is available free of charge and will tell you everything you need to know about what will appear on the ballot  for your specific location.