The Meaning of Democracy
We received a letter from the Writers’ War Board the other day asking for a statement on ‘The Meaning of Democracy.’ It is presumably our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don’t in don’t shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles, the dent in the high hat.
Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is the letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is. (E.B. White, July 3, 1943)
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Once in a golden hour I cast to earth a seed. Up there came a flower, The people said, a weed.
To and fro they went Thro’ my garden-bower, And muttering discontent Cursed me and my flower.
Then it grew so tall It wore a crown of light, But thieves from o’er the wall Stole the seed by night.
Sow’d it far and wide By every town and tower, Till all the people cried `Splendid is the flower.’
Read my little fable: He that runs may read. Most can raise the flowers now, For all have got the seed.
And some are pretty enough, And some are poor indeed; And now again the people Call it but a weed.