Two notable politicians speak to our political times. FDR: “Government can be no better than the public opinion that sustains it.” And JFK: “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

Face it, politicians will never save the day, but they can bring on the night, as a deep reading of world history can reveal. You can see the present in the past, unless your unexamined biases consume you and your life is mired in just surviving and eventually dying poor.

One should also read the world history of religion and perhaps be startled into a realization that the founding fathers, whom we have at times mythologized as demigods and beyond reality, had sound and humane reasons for recommending separation of church and state. They knew that hearts and minds inflamed with religious fervor (and dogmatic certainty) could lead to endless clashes of “my God is better than your God.” In other words, they decided wisely to separate church and state in order to avoid a toxic infusion of church and hate into politics. Don’t we still see hate in our midst, whether in politics or religion?

Just realize that in any democracy, however formed, all the most pertinent questions in the world and all the possible solutions that are debated can never yield either a Final Question or a Final Solution. That’s been tried more than once, hasn’t it? To what end? Violence and war.

No president, congress, senate, judge, lawyer, high priest or preacher, journalist, armed forces personnel, or winner-at-all-cost CEO can rubber-stamp a democracy. And people should ponder that no democracy can realistically be anyone’s vision of perfection. Besides being ever-shifting, a democracy should adapt to what is possible, practical, necessary and all-inclusive.

You hear the mantra, “Give Trump a chance,” but what I see in this mad, mad, mad political world is a power-hungry pretender to the throne who wants to place our democracy in lock-down and, worse, trap everyone in a hyperbolic chamber that echoes nothing but insulting and empty slogans.

Forget the Mueller report and all the media-saturated garbage that has gone into yet another obsessive spin cycle since its recent summary release. Should we be surprised? Of course not. Look back to Watergate, Iran/Contra, the blue dress, and now an unregenerate blowhard trying to make a mockery of what a democracy should be. Reconsider what the founding fathers fought for in so many debates over so many years — that democracy means always being in transition, open to tough challenges, whatever they might be.

Heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind debate with partisan ideology stripped down should be what thrusts American democracy forward. Naive or not, I confess to expressing a sense of wonder, not dread, at the future prospects of not only America, but the world at large. But much more than politics will be necessary for these American dreams (yes, plural) to become realities.

Red alert! Blue alert! Don’t allow politicians to make you numb and dumb. How about we outsmart the politicians?

Thoreau (1817-1862) penned these words: “If voting could change anything it would be illegal.”

Let’s overturn that notion. Let’s vote in 2020 and chant a new people’s slogan: “Be Smart.”

R. Joel Holmes,