Saying “No” and then Changing the Times

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Mark Glennon’s thoughts on how the state of Illinois will fall apart — is falling apart — in a long, gradual process will resonate with Rhode Islanders capable of seeing what’s going on.  In this paragraph, Glennon raises an historical cliché that I’ll likely start quoting every time somebody expresses bewilderment at Rhode Islanders’ political behavior:

The Illinois General Assembly majority, the Chicago City Council and Mayor Emanuel are the obvious villains, but as for the ultimate culprits — voters who elect them — consider what Alexander the Great supposedly said about why Asians in his day were easily made slaves: “Because they never learned to say ‘no.’” Just saying ‘no’ to the incompetence, graft, lies and rank stupidity of their own government would end it all. But Illinoisans, especially Chicagoans, won’t say it, content to march blithely into indentured servitude.

Perhaps the core feature of the system that our forefathers gave us is that we really can avoid servitude by saying “no.”  We are allowed to change things.  We are allowed to insist that all of the reasons insiders tell us we can only say “yes” are false and that believing as we do does not make us bad people.  Saying “no” is only the first step, of course, but we are permitted to change things, and even change them back to something that we’ve lost, like true representative democracy and the rule of law.  The past is fertile ground from which to draw seeds for the future, not a wasteland of toxic superstition.

As for the “how,” I’m more and more convinced that hoping for some catalyst or hero is folly.  Rather, I believe Saint Augustine had it right in his Sermon 311:

You say, the times are troublesome, the times are burdensome, the times are miserable.  Live rightly and you will change the times.

The times have never hurt anyone.  Those who are hurt are human beings; those by whom they are hurt are also human beings.  So, change human beings and the times will be changed.



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