Vail Daily column: The enemy of democracy is us |

Vail Daily column: The enemy of democracy is us

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” — Pogo (by Walt Kelly)

Fair warning: I am heading off on a tangent here, but one I believe is essential to democracy.

I am writing this column just before dawn on the Saturday morning before Election Day. As such, I don’t know if the Democrats or Republicans have won. Or, for all I know, an actual Asian elephant or donkey has carried the day. No matter, I suppose, at least since most Americans agree that neither party gets a damn thing done. So whether is the Dems or Reps or a menagerie of barnyard beasts as head agitators, I cynically believe, portends to make precious little difference.


A recent poll suggests that the majority of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is heading.

Another suggests that, as a nation, we are downright angry about it. And while we as a people apparently share certain attributes with Howard Beale (“Network,” 1976) and we’re “mad as hell,” unlike Paddy Chayefsky’s memorable character, we are quite content to “take it,” our grumbling aside, year after ceaseless year. We are great grumblers but what do we actually do about it?


So who’s to blame? The Republicans? The Democrats, perhaps? I suppose it depends on where you stand. I, however, vote for us, for We the People. I vote for everyone who gripes and bellyaches and bitches … and does nothing about it. Those who dig in, who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty trying to make the place we live a better place, whatever side of the political divide they’re on, I absolve. I understand, of course, that absolution is least of all up to me to bestow.


Too many of us have lost sight of John Kennedy’s clarion call to service; “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” (John Kennedy, Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 1961). Read that over; I’ll wait. There. Few better inaugural questions have ever been posed. Instead of asking for a hand out, reach out your hand. Help someone up. Contribute. Be a giver, not a taker. Simple. Didn’t we learn this stuff in kindergarten?

Even little things help.

Recycle. Hold a door open for someone. Read a book to a child. Volunteer. Be thoughtful. If we rely on Washington to do the lifting, the world will pass us by. Change is made in every day acts of decency, kindness and mutual respect.


My favorite quote is found in the Talmud. It goes like this: “Whoever destroys a single life destroys the world entire. Whoever saves a single life saves the entire world.” It is the butterfly effect writ large. Small acts have large consequences. Good begets more good. Kindness ripples outward. Change starts with a spark.

Instead we grumble. We re-elect incumbents. The Congress is no good but our guy/gal who brings home the bacon to the district is OK. We wallow in an unhappy, downward spiraling stasis. But looking to Washington for answers is like looking for a woodpecker in a weasel’s den; unless the winged thing is being greedily consumed, it won’t be found there. Answers are found in the every day, in the doing and the giving. Barns are raised by community barn-raisings not by legislative action.


Perhaps, in another day and time, Ben Franklin said it best, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we will all hang separately.” Yes, yes, he was speaking of sedition but the sentiment and quote are as fairly applied to community.

As the holiday season begins its freight train approach (yes, it is that time of year again), vow to make a difference. Instead of simply blaming, do. Be a stone thrown in the pond of community. And begin to make a ripple. Be part of the solution.

Sure, we should all try to make Washington better. But home cookin’ starts at home.

So what does all this have to do with a legal column? Admittedly little. But, arguably everything. Unless democracy is preserved and the hard work of protecting it is invested in by each and every one of us, its engine, the laws, threatens to have little meaning.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, or

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