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Democracy Belongs to the Brave

LuAnn and I have been spending this month in Tucson, Arizona. Mountains rise in every direction around the city, affording excellent hiking opportunities. One of the most popular trails is in Bear Canyon, and when we hiked it recently, I wore my I’m a Proud Democrat shirt. Judging by the number of comments I received, I was the most popular person on the trail that day.

I did get one comment that it was “dangerous” to wear the shirt in Arizona. Sadly, it is understandable in our present political climate that people can be cowed by the possibility of drawing a hostile response. Wearing a t-shirt with wording is, after all, a form of speech, and so it becomes a threat to free speech when our political polarization makes people afraid to speak. Our democracy may yet die a violent death, but it could also expire in silence.

I’ve been thinking about courage and cowardice recently as the war in Ukraine has unfolded. I am awed by the courage of the Ukrainian people as well as the brave Russians who have protested the war. Compared to them, what I did was nothing. In the event, I did not in fact receive any negative comments about the shirt, and I felt quite safe among my fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

We could use more political courage in this country, particularly among our elected representatives. To my mind, the worst cowards are the ones who knowingly repeat falsehoods for fear of antagonizing the lunatic fringe. The greatest threat to our democracy is the Big Lie that the last election was stolen. When the herd of Republican candidates for Minnesota governor was asked about it, not one of them was willing to state forthrightly that Biden had won in a fair and honest election. The few Republicans with the courage to condemn the January 6 insurrection (which, I might add, does not include Michelle Fischbach) are condemned as traitors to their party.

I read recently that repeated falsehoods about rampant voter fraud have made Republicans even more fearful for the future of democracy than Democrats and independents. Claiming then to be defenders of democracy, people on the far right threaten election officials, who are made to fear for their own safety. In thus sowing fear and turmoil, Republican politicians have set the stage for alleging that every election they lose was stolen from them. If they can get away with it, Republican-dominated legislatures have indicated they could try to overturn the results in what can only be described as a naked power grab. If that ever happens, our democracy really is doomed.

With democracy under siege around the world, who knows when we will be called upon to make a stand? In the words of Bob Marley, “get up, stand up, stand up for your rights.”

By the way, if you like the shirt, we still have plenty to give away. You can get yours by making a donation at

Paul Harris

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