Joseph Campbell enlightens us on the cycle of the hero story in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” He explains that most cultural heroes (even Jesus) share common themes and they definitely follow a pattern of rise-fall-rise again but stronger.
I suggest that US Democracy is in a moment of its own heroic cycle.
There are some commonalities between US Democracy and Campbell’s exemplary heroes: Born of a meager background, thirteen colonies with not much else but trendsetting ideas and a strong sense of independence, carved themselves into a nation unlike any other of its time. Then follows a slow rise to prominence in the international limelight where its tenants of equality have been accepted by some, rejected by some.
Ironically, it’s the hometown that usually brings down the hero, so it is with our Democracy. Our own leaders have aided the crucifixion of Democracy through inaction. Where the legislative branch normally checks and balances the executive, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to intercept the blatant degradation of ethics by our current president and appear to happily allow a hostile, foreign nation to implant its fear mongering talking points into our national narrative. Similar to Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the issue, enabling the mob to raise Democracy up for a brutal death.
We now live in a moment of uncertainty where our hero has disappeared and many of us feel lost, hopeless, and betrayed. We huddle together in supportive groups, planning what next steps should be taken, eager to carry on the timeless ideas of Democracy, even while it struggles to overcome.
According to Campbell, heroes typically languish for a time in some dark depths before they are able to rise to greater heights, usually with the aid of some helper or assistant. While two short years of destruction and mayhem without Democracy may seem brief to some, we should deem it enough – we really don’t have the luxury of floundering (See Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”).
We really do have the luxury of hope, however. There are helpers arriving in droves to ensure a resurrection. There are those running for office, local and nationally, who bring the ideals of Democracy with them. There are those who work tirelessly to knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, or offer their voice in some manner. There are special elections won by citizens who espouse Democracy and its inherent equality. There are donations of five or ten or hundreds of dollars going to women and men unwilling to cede to the Oligarchy, willing to bring Democracy back from the grave.
But it’s not just that Democracy will be revived, but that it will be revived stronger, more resilient, more powerful. You see, in every story, resurrection empowers the hero to greater strength than it had before. If we can get it right this fall, if the #Bluewave2018 becomes a reality, then Democracy will have returned with a vengeance, ready to stand up to those from the outside who would delight in our complete demise, ready to send them running.
Fellow citizens, I submit that we are poised to see our hero, Democracy, rise from the ashes and shine brighter than before. It is important to understand, however, that each of us is a needed helper to the cause. Encourage one another, elucidate the good and right, get out of comfort zones and talk with each other, and we can resurrect our Democracy from the depths of darkness to be stronger, more vibrant, and more effective.
Yours, in peace.