McCarthy, C. J. “A Drowning Incident.” The Phoenix: Orange and White Literary Supplement. Mar. 1960. University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee. p. 3-4.
“The black widow came threading her way toward it, and when she reached it she began a weaving motion over it with her legs as if performing some last rite.” p. 3
“He could hear the faint liquid purling even then, even before he emerged from the willows where the bridge crosses, glimpsed through the green lacework the fan of water beyond where the sun broke and danced on the stippled surface like silver bees.” p. 3
“Then with the gentle current drifted from beneath the bridge a small puppy, rolling and bumping along the bottom of the creek, turning weightlessly in the slow water. He watched uncomprehendingly. It spun slowly to stare at him with sightless eyes, turning its white belly to the softly diffused sunlight, its legs stiff and straight in an attitude of perpetual resistance. It drifted on, hid momentarily in a band of shadow, emerged, then slid beneath the hammered silver of the water surface and was gone.” p. 3-4
“It ebbed softly for a moment, then, tugged by a corner of the current, a small black and white figure, curled fetally, emerged. It was like witnessing the underwater birth of some fantastic subaqueous organism. It swayed hesitantly for a moment before turning to slide from sight in the faster water.”
“He lifted the stinking bag and looked at it. It was soggy and through a feathered split in the bottom little black hairs protruded like spiderfeet.” p. 4
Our Constitution is a remarkable, beautiful gift. But it’s really just a piece of parchment. It has no power on its own. We, the people, give it power – with our participation, and the choices we make. Whether or not we stand up for our freedoms. Whether or not we respect and enforce the rule of law. America is no fragile thing. But the gains of our long journey to freedom are not assured.
In his own farewell address, George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but “from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken…to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;” that we should preserve it with “jealous anxiety;” that we should reject “the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties” that make us one.
We weaken those ties when we allow our political dialogue to become so corrosive that people of good character are turned off from public service; so coarse with rancor that Americans with whom we disagree are not just misguided, but somehow malevolent. We weaken those ties when we define some of us as more American than others; when we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.
It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.
Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.