The problem with democracy

The problem with democracy isn’t that the people get to vote. The problem with democracy is that often leaves us rootless. Gracy Olmstead writes about this idea in the context of her family and history:

America has long struggled with an individualism that ignores the past and future in its present, personal obsessions. Alexis de Tocqueville identified this individualism in his book Democracy in America, written in the 19th century: “Those who went before are soon forgotten; of those who will come after no one has any idea: the interest of man is confined to those in close propinquity to himself.”

While in aristocratic nations, “a man almost always knows his forefathers, and respects them,” Tocqueville said Americans “owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants, and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever on himself alone, and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.”

The more we disentangle ourselves from our roots, the less aware we become of our moral, cultural, and political heritage. We are careless of traditions and debts owed to the past.

She concludes: “The harvesters who came before us, plowing seeds of culture and liberty, brought forth a crop we presently enjoy. By remembering them, we show true patriotism and gratitude.”