I helped a client find where to “early vote” in her county last week.

After she had voted, she texted me that she was successful, noting that it was not crowded and that she looked forward to the results. I texted her back, “You have just saved democracy.”

Perhaps, we need to change that little sticker from, “I Voted” to “I helped save democracy.”

Democracy is larger than the United States. It is larger than our stewardship of the American democracy. There are some of us watching with alarm as the forces of authoritarianism come at American democracy like “barbarians at the gate.”

Democracy requires many things from us. Some in America are no longer willing to extend those values and practices. For that reason, democracy fails in many nations because of education issues, no history of self-governing and deep-seated authoritarian tendencies. So, democracy needs to be cultivated and renewed.

First, democracy requires us to be well informed about several things.

This includes our Constitution, both its content and processes, as well as the Bill of Rights that sets out our freedoms and rights. It is more than the first two amendments, and we need to know what those are.

Second, we need to know our real history, warts and all.

This includes learning the history of immigration, as well as accurate and honest retelling of the mistreatment and exploitation of Indigenous peoples and enslaved Africans.

It only takes a simple reading of the constitutional amendments to realize the progress we made in finally including all our population into the stream of rights and freedoms, including the right to vote. Real, transparent history tells us the story of that journey.

Third, it is important to defend the right of freedom of worship for everyone.

The nation’s founders made room for all religions, and people of no religion, wisely prohibiting the government from guiding religion, establishing a state church or favoring one religion over another.

The notion of a “Christian America” or a “Christian nation” is not supported in the founding documents or the nation’s history. The effort to make it so will destroy Christianity in the process. It is a fraudulent poison to our faith.

We need to understand and know that this nation has always included peoples with distinct and diverse values and lifestyles. To believe that “others” pose an existential threat to us because they are different from ourselves is the fruit of fear mongering and lack of good information.

We also need to understand that while voting saves democracy, sustaining and upholding democracy necessitates much more. It requires engagement with those who are supposed to represent us, monitoring the issues that matter and making sure our elected representatives hear our voice, our concerns and our wishes.

We need to keep pressure on Congress to reform our campaign laws so that elections aren’t about who spends the most money. The 2022 midterms are projected to cost a staggering $16 billion. No wonder you are pelted daily with desperate cries for donations. At this rate, it is fair to say elections are more bought than won.

I would also add that, in a democratic society, we need to seek good information from reliable sources and to turn away from lies, propaganda and conspiracy theories. We have seen the latter flourish in large part because they speak to our fears.

I voted early, and I will be happy if you voted early or if you are waiting for election day to vote, just as long as we all understand that casting a vote is the beginning of democracy, not the end.

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