“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” –Thomas Jefferson
Here is another quote that is often attributed to Jefferson, but does not appear in any of his known writings:
“An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.”
Even if this is not a direct quote, it clearly reflects Jefferson’s views on the need for active participation by citizens if they are to retain their freedom. Those views can be elaborated by the following four statements:
- A democracy cannot function without an informed and involved electorate.
- Whether citizens are informed or not, if they are not involved enough to vote…then a ruling class will assume power, and the people will be subjugated and exploited.
- If citizens are involved, but not informed (or misinformed), then chaos and villainy will rule…and the probable result will be the same as 2.
- If citizens are both informed and involved, then, and only then, can a free society develop.
At the moment, a large part of the U.S. population is neither informed nor involved. Another part is involved, but misinformed…deliberately by a controlled segment of the media. (Jefferson could not have envisioned the power of media today.) A small part is both informed and involved, but too small to determine the outcome, as we have seen in the recent Presidential election.
The right to vote is not a privilege of citizenship. It is a responsibility. But merely casting a vote does not discharge that responsibility. A vote cast in ignorance, or based on racism, bigotry or hate is worse than not voting. It has been said that we get the government we deserve. I fear that the people of the United States are about to learn a cruel lesson about their responsibilities as citizens.