Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: Freedom isn’t free


I’m always amazed at how many folks seem to be proud of the fact that they don’t vote in any election. Most of them think that their vote doesn’t count or they just don’t want to get involved… and of course I can’t help but give them my lecture on how government “of, for, and by the people” doesn’t work unless “the people” participate.  And I’m quite sure once I leave they remove my thoughts from their memory with just a shake of their heads.

But hey, I’m serious too many of us take our freedoms for granted… and yes, our military keeps us free, but freedom really doesn’t come from our military; rather, it comes from you and I as citizens when we vote on who we think should be allowed to lead our cities, counties, state, and federal governments.

So for a fella who successfully stood for election nine times, I’m here to tell you that being disengaged from our government is the biggest danger we Americans face in the world today. Thinking that what you have to say doesn’t matter fully confirms what I just said… if “we the people” don’t participate those who do will rule, and in these times the decisions our leaders will have to make will not only affect you and I, but generations to come.

Hang with me here for a moment or so. Think about government for a minute with me and maybe I can get you leaning my way. Government is only as good as the people will allow it to be… and indeed it has given us a lifestyle that fits our freedoms. Think balance of power, the people decide who will lead us by electing commissioners, legislators, governors, members of congress and presidents. Commissioners, legislators and members of Congress create policy (they are our board of directors) and presidents and governors execute that policy and the courts will decide if what they’re doing is legal.

So what good has all this done? Think interstate highways, the internet (yes, it was taxpayer money that created it), the space program and all its wonderful discoveries (think Velcro), the farm program that not only feeds the world but also allows us to afford our food (food stamps, hot lunch programs for kids), think Pell Grants and student loans and property taxes that create the great equalizer in our society, education, think EPA that eliminated acid rain and lead in our gasoline, think Peace Corps, think nursing homes, think Medicare… on and on.

So what’s bad about government and what happens when you don’t participate? Think privacy, how do you feel about spy drones hovering out of sight over your house, think about no knock warrants where officials can search your house and then go to a secret court for a warrant after they find something. Think about elected officials, let’s take state’s attorneys that refuse to either prosecute messy custody cases or pile on charges that they know they shouldn’t… indeed, their role is to prosecute the law, but more importantly they swear to do justice. Think about officials that think they’re more important than the people they represent… hush money, Super PAC’s, backroom deals that create more personal benefit than public service.

Indeed, there are good sides and bad sides to government, but the worst side comes from those who won’t participate in the responsibility of maintaining our freedoms may well be responsible for losing them.

Under our first amendment, we all have the freedom to express our self, and although both of my loyal readers wish that I would express more free speech worth listening to, I do understand that silence is also a form of speech. But take it from this bloviater – if you don’t vote you really are letting someone else govern your life… and being free people demands a lot more than having a strong military; it requires that its people participate in governing themselves.

Here’s hoping whomever we the people select to lead us will take us all where we’re supposed to be.