On the last Friday of every month, democracy isn’t elections or protests or freedom of speech, it’s art. That’s when Maira Kalman, an illustrator, author, and designer who teaches design at the graduate level in New York City, posts her monthly drawings on, And the Pursuit of Happiness, a blog about American democracy. I cheered at her inauguration entry, and loved her Abraham Lincoln post, but March’s colorful edition is my favorite one yet. In it, Ms. Kalman takes us from 16th Century England, to France in the time of de Tocqueville, to a town hall meeting in Newfane, Vermont, to a student council meeting in the Bronx. Ah, the power of pictures.
This month’s entry by Ms. Kalman got me thinking: I own a copy of Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, but I never finished reading it. I’ve never attended a town hall meeting either (if I go, do I get to eat barbeque chicken and cornbread like the Vermonters?), nor did I serve on my student council. Does that make me a bad citizen?
Probably not. Other than voting (and By the People blogger, Michelle, suggests maybe not even that), I’m not sure there’s anything everyone should do in a democracy to keep it going. Some of us will read de Tocqueville, and some of us won’t. I might not have been a member of the student council, but I did participate in my school’s mock trial team, role-playing lawyers and witnesses, and learning about the rule of law. We all have our preferred civic activities.
So, while some citizens will attend town hall meetings, or run for office, or help people get to the polls on Election Day, others, like Ms. Kalman, will draw beautiful depictions of democratic life for the rest of us to contemplate and enjoy. Ah, the power of options.