Not long ago, a man I know fairly well asked me if I had given much consideration to the phrase “consent of the governed.”

I said I hadn’t, and he suggested I should, and that what I would find would move me to a significant extent. I followed his advice and did a little research, and he was right.

The phrase dates back as far as the 13th century, and can be found in writings of multiple backgrounds, including political, religious and journalistic.

But it can also be found in the United States Declaration of Independence. In fact, it’s in the second paragraph of the famous document, right after the well-known statement that begins with “we hold these truths to be self evident.”

As a reminder, here’s how the nation’s Founding Fathers wrote the passage:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” 

Man, that’s some powerful stuff right there. But I guess not powerful enough for a lot of office holders in our current federal government to adhere to it.

I feel like there’s not nearly enough consideration given to the consent of the governed and far to many things being promoted, initiated or executed that aren’t at all consensual. I feel like that instead of having a mentality of, “since you elected me, let’s figure out what you want and don’t want,” too many national politicians seem to lean more toward, “you elected me, so now you need to do what I say and think how I think.”

There’s way too much arrogance, aloofness and even downright hatefulness, and way too little empathy, compassion and caring. Sometimes it seems like there’s even a competitive approach, as if they want to “win” at any cost.

Maybe I’m wrong and every single national politician is sincerely acting in the best interest of the masses, and they all have nothing but kindness and mercy in their hearts. Maybe they’re not all pompous elitists, but friendly, considerate people who want to see everyone be happy and prosper.

But maybe I’ll set a world record in the 100-meter dash, too.

While the goals, methods or even purpose of the United Nations might be easy to question, even that creepy organization has in the past used a similar concept in its guidelines. Article 21 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government.”

It might be arguable that the UN has since abandoned that mentality and adopted a “we know better than you” attitude, but there was apparently recognition of that viewpoint back then.

Anyway, like most people, I’m not sure where things in general are headed right now, but I’m not encouraged by the direction in which we seem to be going. And I honestly feel like if the consent of the governed isn’t made more of a priority in the very near future, both the governed and the folks doing the governing might be in some serious trouble.

Basically, I don’t believe people in this country will put up with having their will shoved aside forever, and I envision that things could get ugly when they’ve had enough. Here’s to hoping things become more consensual, because the alternative might be harsh.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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