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Few were as free as Socrates who questioned so many ideas and people that when the democracy was restored to Athens, he was accused of corrupting the youth and sentenced to death by hemlock. Yet, when offered the opportunity to flee by his disciple Crito, Socrates argued that he had received his life from his country and owed it to her, even if she required it unjustly (This is the real meaning of “my country right or wrong”). As someone has said, “Such men are too good for this world.”

I, too, am repelled by cant and mere propaganda; but citizens need ritual, common rites that express common values and ideals. That such rites and practices work is conceded by the author of the preceding piece, as he expresses his resentment of it, and alienation from the group. Again, I can identify with such alienation. But there is a consequence to taking such a stand, a price to be paid for such dissent.

Socrates is such an inspiring figure because he held on to both the loyalty and service to the state, and the duty of thinking and speaking independently. He did this through several regime changes and the disastrous time of the Peloponnesian War. Ironically, what the tyrants could accommodate, democracy could not. This is one reason America’s founding fathers did not establish a democracy, rather a republic combining both aristocratic and democratic elements.

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