Our Democracy

A More Perfect Union
5 min readMay 25, 2022


This evening my son wanted to play a game with one of the balloons left over from a recent birthday party. “Let’s see who can win!” he cried, by hitting the balloon into the ground before the other can touch it. It was the end of another long day and I had no energy for such aggressive play. I proposed, instead, that we just try to keep it afloat. Let’s work together.

And it was fun. A lot of fun. We headed it. Kicked it. Tapped it. Volleying back and forth. Back and forth.

Each time, we did our best to set up the other for a successful hit (even if it meant a more difficult hit on our own part). Not only did that make the other happy but it also enhanced our own chance of getting yet another follow-on hit.

By helping the other, we were also helping ourselves. We got more hits. More practice. Our measure of success — the number of bounces — was a collective goal that depended on our collective effort. And, whatever the number, we derived satisfaction and improvement and fun from working together.

I had no incentive to play for my interests alone. Neither did Atticus. The only thing that mattered was keeping that balloon afloat.

Our democracy is that balloon.

Too many of us are playing as if only our own interests matter. Our own success. Our own way. Our own view. We play the game of democracy as if the sole objective is to spike our opinion past the other side. To win the argument in singular, inarguable, irreversible fashion.

Instead, we must come to appreciate that what is beneficial for the other side can also be beneficial for us. And simply doing our best to play the game of democracy…to keep it afloat…is success in and of itself.

Yet another mass shooting has happened in America. And…as predictable as the Earth’s tides or rotation…politicians and influencers will offer hollow thoughts and prayers. Others will express pointless outrage and impatience.

More guns.

Less guns.

More guns.

Less guns.

Nothing will happen.

And then the game will shift from arguing about who’s to blame for mass shootings to who’s to blame for doing nothing about mass shootings.

Nothing will happen.

Then MSNBC will get hot and bothered about rumors surrounding Donald Trump. Fox News will stoke outrage about the “Ministry of Truth.”

Nothing will happen.

The news cycle will move on. We can revisit the intractable, interminable debate between pro-life and pro-choice. Or turn back to rising crime rates. And we can never forget about soaring gas prices.

Nothing will happen.

Maybe we’ll re-obsess about #NoFlyZoneUkraine. Or treat pronouns like they’re civilization’s last stand. Perhaps SNL will cleverly zing Greg Abbott.

Nothing will happen.

Nothing will happen until we stop treating our democracy like it’s winner-takes-all.

Because it’s our fault. Our fault.

We are the ones who elect these clowns into office. All of them. Republicans and Democrats. We are the ones with our minds so focused on 401(k)’s and 529’s that we don’t bother to run for office ourselves. We are the ones so consumed by work that we can’t be meaningfully engaged with the problems and solutions of our own communities.

We are the ones with the attention spans of gnats and the shifting priorities of tweenagers. We are the ones who opine on social media without filter and without compromise on every issue. We are the ones who insult the other side…condemn the other side…demonize the other side…and then wonder why they won’t work with us.

We are the ones who enable politicians and media to stoke outrage while doing nothing productive, by continuing to give them our eyeballs and votes and recurring monthly subscriptions and donations.

We are the ones who support agendas and economic policies that render fellow Americans so hopeless that mass murder is their best option. We are the ones who ignored the opioid crisis…who overlook chronic poverty, whether it’s rural or urban or suburban…who have shrugged our shoulders at obscenely-inflating college tuitions…who fuel the chronic anxiety promoted by social media…who cheer for automation and artificial intelligence without equivalent regard for the damage which will inevitably fall upon people and their communities because of millions of lost jobs…who promote the notion of a country in irreversible, irresolvable, hopeless crisis.

We are the ones who have let the possibility of financial stability and reasonable comfort for an average American family become so remote and unattainable that many…too many…pin their hopes on chance…on playing the lottery, on betting on sports, on the remote prospects of a college athletic scholarship or professional sports career, on winning lawsuits, on becoming a YouTube star, on going viral, on getting plucked from obscurity to fame. Or pin their hopes on the simple solutions and scapegoating of entrenched, ineffective politicians and demagogues.

We are the ones so utterly lacking in humility that we consider our opinions infallible and positions non-negotiable. We are the ones so horribly unself-aware that we don’t realize the damage we ourselves do to society. We are the ones so arrogant that we believe without equivocation we know everything possible about those we disagree with.

We are the ones who refuse to think differently and keep our heads in the same droning echo chambers. We are the ones who refuse to compromise. On. Any. Single. Issue. We are the ones who celebrate our right in civic discourse to yell as loud as possible but reject our responsibility to listen as carefully as possible. We are the ones who react to crisis after crisis and issue after issue with outrage and condemnation instead of compassion and cooperation.

We are the ones who have created an environment where ideological orthodoxy and maddening government paralysis are more important than creative compromise and practical progress.

And we are the only ones with the power…the responsibility…to implement the necessary fixes.

To stop doing what brought us here.

To start doing something dramatically new to bring about the dramatic fixes our democracy needs and we each deserve.

…that those 19 murdered victims in Uvalde, Texas, deserve.

…that those 5 wounded victims and 1 murdered victim in Laguna Woods, California, deserve.

…that those 10 murdered victims in Buffalo, New York, deserve.

…that every person who has been a victim to the poison of lost hope deserves.

We can either choose to become the beacon of hope and promise and resolve and creative problem-solving…to keep that balloon of democracy afloat with our fellow Americans.

Or we can continue spiking that balloon in the face of our fellow Americans until it pops and we see that democracy is not winner-take-all but, rather, winner-takes-home-a-failed-democracy…which is not a democracy at all.

Only we can prevent that. Only we can save our democracy. We must save it…by embracing our responsibility and culpability…by reversing all the bad habits we’ve been reflexively indulging.

It is time to take back our democracy and cast it afloat, anew. Now.



A More Perfect Union

Wine Merchant. Former corporate lawyer. Former Naval officer. Current husband & father of 3. Brooklyn since 00. Our nation’s ideals are worth fighting for.