Two recent stories illustrate the difference between self government and totalitarian government.
Our system of self government received a grassroots boost from the direct action taken by citizens in a small Illinois township recently. Taxpayers Strike Back is a delightful example of self government and direct democracy in action.
The citizens of a small Illinois community got together to overturn a prior vote by their civic leaders in 2004. At that time the small number of citizens attending the meeting approved city officials' plans to build a $1.5 million office building for the city's nine employees.
Now the economy is weak, and taxpayer money is tight. Circumstances have changed, and the self governing taxpayers now say that clinging to 2004's view of the world is wrong and needs to replaced with a more current one.
In that regard, the leader of the local campaign's direct democracy movement had this to say about self government, "We directed an out-of-control government to listen to the people." And that's absolutely possible to do throughout America, assuming the grassroots willpower is present.
Then there's Cuba and another compelling story about "powerless" people standing up to their government.
Castro vs. the Ladies in White tells of a movement by dissident Cuban women to protest the Castro regime's attempted complete dominance of the words and actions of the Cuban people. The story exemplifies both what abuses people will endure to openly express their views, and what the oppressive government will do to stifle the expression of those views.
It's a great example of civil disobedience and its impact, as The Ladies in White are not easily intimidated by the Cuban Castro brothers.
The Ladies in White protest movement began in 2003 after a government "crackdown in which 75 independent journalists and librarians, writers and democracy advocates were rounded up and handed prison sentences of six to 28 years. The wives, mothers and sisters of some of them began a simple act of protest. On Sundays they would gather at the Havana Cathedral for Mass and afterward they would march carrying gladiolas in a silent call for the prisoners' release."
Now let's update this heartwarming example of civil disobedience, "Last Tuesday when four women dressed in black took to the steps of the capitol building in Havana chanting "freedom," a Castro bully tried to remove them. Amazingly, the large crowd watching shouted for him to leave them alone. Eventually uniformed agents carried them off. But the incident, caught on video, is evidence of a new chapter in Cuban history, and it is being written by women. How it ends may depend heavily on whether the international community supports them or simply shields its eyes from their torment."
In the Cuban situation, while the protest was outwardly directed at government officials, the real target is public opinion, sentiment and involvement. As a result, the protesting Ladies in White represent an existential threat to the Castro brothers and their communist government.
In Illinois, as members of a free society, engaged and involved citizens were simply freely using their civic powers by voting on a matter of local importance.
In the U.S., the people rule when we take action and get involved. In Cuba the people have no such power to rule. At least not yet.
We live in a great and free self governed country. Let's hope that someday soon the Ladies in White and their fellow citizens will as well.