We must honor the sacred spaces of self-government

The Democracy Witness project began as an affirmation of the rights of all people, everywhere, to enjoy self-determination and open government. The foundation for this publication’s work is the requirement that any government derive its just powers from the voluntary and informed consent of the governed.

Last week’s attack on the US Capitol by paramilitary insurrectionists, incited to violence by a rogue president and his corrupt allies, have caused us to refocus on the importance of treating as sacred the spaces where self-government plays out. The US Capitol is one such place—arguably the most open legislative body in the world, where any person can freely engage in good-faith policy discussion with elected officials and their staff.

Some legislators have full time staff devoted to answering correspondence from those they represent. Some offices will answer millions of pieces of correspondence per year. It is possible, in the United States, for ordinary people to fill the calendar of meetings and to contribute substantively to discussions on racial discrimination, police reform, taxation, economic development, education policy, healthcare access rights, environmental protection and climate action, and on matters of peace and security.

American democracy is not perfect, but it does allow everyone to play a role, if they wish to. The attack on the Capitol was an attempt to subvert the right of hundreds of millions of people to enjoy the fruits of open government. Nothing the attackers or their sympathizers say can change that fact.

We will be using the United States Capitol as a symbol for Democracy Witness, for the indefinite future, as a sign of respect for that highest of all principles of democratic process—that people working in good faith for the betterment of their communities and their fellow citizens have an absolute right to meet with and constructively inform those who represent them in the halls of government.

Democracy is about the demilitarization of the civic space. We call on all political actors everywhere to work peacefully, and constructively, for a society in which force can never displace reason, participatory process, or the full and equal protection of the laws.

This is why we have always loved sharing images of citizens gathering to meet with government in good faith, to talk policy, to build political will for a better future. There is joy, and real empowerment, in living your democracy that way. May it again be the norm in the weeks and months ahead, and when we overcome the scourge of COVID-19 that has kept so many so far from others.

John McCain’s farewell letter

My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,

Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.

I have often observed that I am the luckiest person on earth. I feel that way even now as I prepare for the end of my life. I have loved my life, all of it. I have had experiences, adventures and friendships enough for ten satisfying lives, and I am so thankful. Like most people, I have regrets. But I would not trade a day of my life, in good or bad times, for the best day of anyone else’s.

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Return the Children

Statement from the Geoversiv Foundation on the US administration’s ongoing process of forced family separation and child internment — Issued June 23, 2018

No society can be free, prosperous and secure, while power is used to terrorize, dehumanize, or detain vulnerable people on pretext or prejudice.

The Bill of Rights — one of the most necessary and transformational documents in world history — makes it unlawful for any agent of power in the United States to so mistreat the humanity of any person.

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The Problematic Case of PFC Bradley Manning

We have to ask ourselves, constantly and with serious attention to specifics, whether as we build our democratic universe of human relationships, we might be getting things wrong. Private First Class Bradley Manning took action that demanded that we do that. Some say his leaking of classified documents was treason (the courts do not say that); some say it was heroism (the courts do not say that either).

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Stop the Violence Now

After the dignity and inspiration of the Arab Spring, what we are now witnessing in the United States has been an inspiration to millions of people who long to have a voice in their society. Yet some city governments are ordering the use of paramilitary assault tactics against unarmed civilians engaged in constitutionally protected peaceful assembly and free expression. In Oakland, we have now seen two displays of overwhelming, deliberate, combat-style police actions against unarmed civilians exercising their basic rights.

Video has emerged clearly confirming eyewitness reports that Oakland police fired directly into crowds of unarmed demonstrators with tear gas and flash-bang grenades. Scott Olsen, now famous the world over, was shot in the face when police fired “non-lethal” rubber bullets directly at protesters’ heads, at close range.  Video shows a combination flash-bang/teargas grenade being fired directly into the middle of a crowd of people attempting to tend to him as he lay bleeding on the ground.

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