Chances are, you’ve heard the phrase “silence means consent”. However, such a line of thinking has little bearing when it comes to American law. After all, we value the right to remain silent and the ability to avoid self-incrimination to such an extent, that it can be found in our Fifth Amendment and in the Miranda warning. So, from where then does the saying arise? As I recall from my high school days in Latin class, in ancient Rome a person offering their silence regarding a particular charge or action was often taken the same as agreement. Fortunately, such a line of thinking has no bearing in our society…or does it?
Regrettably, when it comes to the realm of politics, far too often is consent assumed when no answer or uproar comes forth. For example, if a politician wishes to increase our taxes or create some sort of new spending program, what besides the votes of his fellow representatives can stop him or her? How about the loud outrage of his or her constituents! If the public remains silent, far too often the politician takes that to mean that the people either support the proposal, or simply don’t care. I suppose that such an attitude is one of the defining marks of a politician versus a statesman. A politician does not really seek to represent any particular ideology or particular constituents. Rather, he or she looks to maximize his or her own wealth or fame, and to aid his or her friends and supporters with kickbacks, pet projects, and the like. Ultimately, principles take a back seat to power. Therefore, only the threat of unpopularity, the loss of donors, and the potential to be removed from office motivate the politician.
So what’s the take-home message for you, the reader? You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again. Get involved! Our political system is not meant to be a spectator sport. Is your Representative or Delegate shredding the Constitution? Does your Senator spend more of your money in a day than you make in a year? What are you going to do about it? Do you research and then write your legislators, call them on the phone or visit their offices. Don’t be too negative, however. You should you praise the ones who advocate your values…but as for the rest, let them know you’ve had enough of their outlandish schemes and you won’t remain quiet or inactive anymore. Otherwise, the politicians will continue to think your silence means consent.