A Day for Democracy's Faithful

02/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I don't believe in a god, but I believe in something equally as improbable and audacious. No, not Obama. American democracy.

There is no higher power, but we have our common power. No heaven, but the rich Earth. And the promise of America.

This is my faith. It saves me, as it does millions like me, in the same way religions save their devout followers.

Yet my faith, like that of many readers of HuffPost, has been shaken to its roots in the last decade.

It wasn't that the country was merely being misgoverned, or that Wall Street had run wild. It wasn't just Mission Accomplished or Abu Ghraib or Katrina or Enron or Abramoff or any one of the dozens of transgressions we all find it so easy to name.

It was more fundamental than that. It cut to our common bone. At times, it seemed as if the whole enterprise of America was creeping to a dark conclusion. Not a darkness that ends in mass destruction, but mass indifference. A blankness in the eyes. As Elie Wiesel wrote years ago: "The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference... The opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

As Inauguration Day so well symbolizes: to hell with indifference. A black man swearing on Lincoln's Bible to protect and defend a Constitution that didn't deem men like him worthy of citizenship. The peaceful transfer of power, as Bush and his grim legacy were helicoptered away. The soaring songs: "Air and Simple Gifts"; Aretha exhaling "From every mountainside, let freedom ring." Elizabeth Alexander: "In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun."

One of Obama's more poetic sentences contained not so much a beginning as much as a continuation of the scripture of America:

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Faith restored.

But as the history of our country so well proves, the promise of freedom and equality is not God-given but reaffirmed through the sweat and blood of generation after generation of democracy's devout believers.

Such devotion, such faith, only seems implausible when indifference reigns.

Now it's up to all of us to make sure the audacity of American democracy continues to overcome such indifference.