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THROUGH THE FIRE: Another Test of Our Democracy


In Abraham Lincoln’s immortal Gettysburg Address, he stated that America was:

“a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”

He said the Civil War was a test of our democracy. America and its form of democracy is a long-term “work in progress” and is still being tested today by different forms of social civil war, between the rich and the poor, whites and people of color, conservatives and progressives, the majority against the minority, and people of different forms of religion or belief systems. We seem to be a nation at war against ourselves on multiple fronts – and I feel this is especially true in regard to our two major political parties.

Somehow, we have to get back to the basic premise that we are Americans first and our party affiliations are secondary. I have been a life-long Democrat but I have not been a life-long Republican hater. In the past few years, I have come to the point where I am disgusted and repulsed by Republicans and their political positions and statements.

One of my friends made the statement that whenever he sees Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on TV, he gets the urge to punch him in the face – and it resonated with me – that’s exactly how I feel too! And it bothers me that I feel this way – that I should view my fellow Americans with such animosity. And I suspect that many Republicans have similar negative feelings about me and Democrats. We seem to be at civil war in our political alignments and it is getting worse.

They say that people should not talk about religion or politics at family gatherings and this is especially wise in these times. Two years ago, at a large family Thanksgiving gathering, someone came wearing a red Trump cap; I felt incensed and wanted to rip it off his head, but peace in the family was more important so I let it go – but I didn’t like how I felt. What is wrong with me – or is it a national problem?

I find myself worrying whether the system is breaking down and the nation is failing the test that Lincoln put forth. There is the old saying that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others!” Knowing this, we cannot allow a failure of democracy on our watch!

Lincoln ends the Gettysburg Address by stating that it is up to us, the living, to honor those who gave their lives at Gettysburg, to rededicate ourselves to the cause of freedom for all –

“that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We the people, Republicans and Democrats alike, need to get back to those ideals and solidify ourselves as Americans first. We need to change our political structures so we can confront this current testing of our democracy before it destroys the faith we need to have in our system of government to make it work.

America is a long-term work-in-progress in the social experiment of democratic government and we can’t allow it to fail.


Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at The Rafu Shimpo’s management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to 

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