Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport

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“Football is a spectator sport. Democracy is not a spectator sport.”

The first time I heard Bernie Sanders say those words something clicked in my brain. I thought: We’re not supposed to sit passively and let politicians do whatever they want or nothing at all while they’re in office. We the people are supposed to work alongside our leaders and together make things better for all. No more of this helpless victim routine!

The helpless–or is it really hopeless?–victim routine has become commonplace in America, especially since the 1980s. It’s a mixture of apathy and resignation, an overwhelming feeling which says, “Nothing I do will make any difference so why bother?” Worse of all, it appears to be contagious. Is it caught from simply dealing with the daily struggle of living in these tough times? Gone are the days of optimism and determination to create a better society we witnessed during the Civil Rights struggles. But, just when all hope appeared lost, Bernie Sanders came along.

This generation needs a strong moral leader like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and luckily for us, a man who marched with King and protested the travesty of segregation in Chicago in the 1960s has entered the political maelstrom of the 2016 presidential campaign. That the Millennial generation recognizes their need for a better society for all Americans, and are willing to work to make it happen, is perhaps the most inspiring outcome of Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. Young adults and old-timers alike, white and black, rich and poor, gay and straight, able-bodied and wheelchair bound realize how much better the world became after Dr. King and others like him took a stand and took on the corrupt political system.

What many Americans don’t remember is Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis while trying to help the sanitation workers receive better pay and treatment on the job. Fifty years later, Bernie Sanders is picking up King’s torch and running with it, proposing programs to help American workers make a living wage, receive health care, and provide a better future for their children with access to free public colleges.

None of Bernie’s ideas are new–Dr. King and others spoke about them in the 1960s–but they’ve been thwarted by institutionalized racism and apathy in the years since King’s death. We the people have been duped into thinking these ideas were impractical or impossible and told not to look too closely on how our actual tax dollars were being spent and who was actually getting all the tax breaks.

(Hint: The biggest welfare recipients in our country are the members of the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame.)

Billionaires have bent the system to line their pockets with our money–the working people’s money. Isn’t it time our tax dollars were spent to help us and our children live prosperous and healthy lives instead of being stuffed into a tax haven in the Cayman Islands or hidden away via a Panamanian shell company?

True democracy takes lots of hands to make light the load. It takes a leader who is willing to point out where our society has strayed into selfishness and greed rather than into compassion and neighborliness. I no longer desire to be a spectator–I want in the game! With Bernie Sanders as our coach and guide, we’re in for a winning season.

Bio: Cindy A. Matthews is a freelance writer, novelist and editor of The Bernie Blog. http://bernie2016.blogspot.com