Sailing in the Open Sea: Our Democracy

Matthew Dowd
3 min readAug 11, 2023

A tale of where we are today as a country and as a democracy:

We are aboard a sailing ship having left a safe harbor years ago on a voyage to a yet undiscovered renewed democratic harbor. Yes, the old lands were known to us but the imperfections of our union had once again become unbearable and we had exhausted the institutions that held us together since WW2. We now again are on a journey of discovery to find a new harbor where the institutions meet the moment we are in and open up opportunities for more of our citizens and we can make steps to perfect our union.

The sailing has for years seemed relatively calm and predictable but we now reached that part of our journey where we are in the midst of turbulent seas and unpredictability. Many are scared, confused, frustrated and angry as the ship is tossed about in dark squalls and heavy rains. Some, because of their fears, want to turn back and try to get to the “safety” of what was known before even though it wasn’t working, even if that means leaving fellow citizens floundering in the open seas. They even are trying to take control of the ship from the folks attempting to lead us to our future.

In the midst of this, through the storms, when the darkness and thunder subsides a little, some of us can see and hear in the distance a lighthouse calling us to a renewed harbor of democracy. The dream we had in the dark, we know is a reality in the light. We know the only way to the land of promise of equality and justice is to sail through the storms protecting as many of our fellow citizens as we possibly can.

In this moment, each of us has a role to play in making sure our ship of state reaches the new land. Some of us may be leaders on the ship reassuring each other and keeping the boat on chart. Some of us may be required to bail the water we are taking on board so we don’t sink. Some of us may have to grab an oar and row until our arms and backs are blistered and soar. Some of us may need to care for the sick and needy. Some of us may need to sing to the others so our spirits are lifted.

It will take a shared sense of sacrifice by each one of us, putting our personal comforts aside and do what is best for each other. And for each of us to remind the other of why we are on the voyage and that our hope isn’t a myth. We will need to inspire each other in our shared vision and not assume the worst about each other.

As Americans we have been in this moment before. We made it through the darkness and trials of the great depression and World War 2. We made it through the horrors of the Civil War and slavery. And we made it through the turbulent times and bloodshed of the American Revolution. At each of those moments doubts arose and we thought at times we wouldn’t make it. But we did, and our country advanced and was renewed in after the turmoil and further along the path of a more perfect union. And in the aftermath of each of those stormy times we swam ashore to a land that was unrecognizable from what it was before and we established new institutions of democracy that didn’t exist prior.

We can do this. But we can only do this together.