Democracy is not a free ride

The following words were spoken by Sean Penn, playing US diplomat Joe Wilson in the movie Fair Game (2010), which is based on a factual story. Penn/Wilson was addressing students following the leaking of the identity of his wife Valerie Plame. As you may recall, the career of Plame – a CIA operative – was destroyed after her identity was exposed by a politically motivated press leak in the run-up to the second Iraq War.

The speech inspired me to blog. It’s such a great reminder of our individual responsibilities as citizens in a democratic society, to be informed, to ask questions:

The offence that was committed was not committed against me. It was not committed against my wife. It was committed against you. All of you.

Now if that makes you angry or feel misrepresented, do something about it.

When Benjamin Franklin left Independence Hall just after the second drafting [of the Declaration of Independence], he was approached by a woman on the street, who said: “Mr Franklin, what manner of government have you bequeathed us?”

And Franklin said: “A Republic madam. If you can keep it.”

The responsibility of a country is not in the hands of a privileged few. We are strong and we are free from tyranny, only as long as each one of us remembers his or her duty as a citizen.

Whether it’s to report a pothole at the top of your street, or lies in the State of the Union address, speak out, ask those questions. Demand that truth.

Democracy is not a free ride.

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