While America Sleeps

Joel Pulliam
6 min readSep 2, 2021
House Speaker Dade Phelan, R — Beaumont, gavels in votes at the Capitol in Austin, Texas on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. (Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

We have all read the stories of coups d’état and governments falling in the dead of night. Forces of evil look to seize power and suppress democracy when people are asleep and vigilant eyes aren’t watching. Now our nation is at an impasse where it is in a different slumber and those same forces are waiting for us to be asleep at the wheel. This is an internal threat against the American experiment, one that seeks to put out the already dimming light of democracy.

There is a concern because the house is burning from the inside out and it seems as if no one is making an effort to even douse the flames. Many are oblivious to what is being stolen from them and too many in government are only doing the bare minimum to secure democracy. Our government cannot keep using the same tactics as they are neither bold nor resilient enough to combat the rise of racism and fascism. Voting rights and basic human rights are being snatched away piece by piece every single day and we have not put forth the adequate legislative effort to stop it.

This is not to rail against those in the current adminstration, however, I do not believe we have sounded the alarm loud enough nor have laid bare to the American people what it will take to save this nation. We are living in a time where a Republican Party wants to send those who look like me back to the Jim Crow era. This is the same party that believes the darker you are the fewer voting rights you should have. This is the same party that believes they can dictate a woman’s choice, but can then endanger others by not choosing science. Their hypocrisy is both alarming and deplorable.

To add insult to injury, the Republicans act with brashness when passing suppressive and oppressive laws. They have pushed the envelope further and further and have dared those on the side of good to fight back. I must admit… the pushback, especially from those in power, has not been sufficient. While the right words are said, actions from those in our party (from the top-down) have not met the moment. I fear some in our nation have not even heeded the alarm because those in power haven’t truly stressed how dire a situation we are in.

Now some have understood the enormity of the moment and called for appropriate action, but far too many have tried to avoid the unavoidable. We must never forget this one solid truth: You cannot obtain freedom without confrontation and you cannot confront without the willingness to tell the uncomfortable truth with both conviction and righteous indignation. We must be willing to lose all to gain enfranchisement. That leads me to the second hard truth: The filibuster must go and the Supreme Court must be expanded. We cannot and must not allow a couple of rouge Senators to stand in the way of liberty and justice. There are no other options left for us, as institutions — such as the electoral college and, yes, even the filibuster — built on racism and bigotry are buckling under the weight of injustice and standing on a faulty foundation built immorally. We also are seeing what happens when one party, entrenched in hatred, plays the long game while the other party, acting in good faith, does not. The writing was on the wall that our systems were failing and we have not done enough to stop the bleeding. While we could have avoided many of our calamities by electing our first woman president in 2016, we were inevitably racing toward a collapse of democracy due to the weakening of our institutions. The reality is that our nation barely withstood the 4-year Presidency of Trump and even now, democracy is on life support. The question we must now ask is how far are we willing to go to save it?

Today we cannot fall back on the same lines and quips that feigned a false sense of unity. We cannot wish this problem away or tell voters that we can hold on for another election cycle or two. We have reached an impasse where going forward is the only option, for looking backward can lead to the destruction of democracy itself. There must be an awakening not only of the conscience of America but of the courage of its leaders. No more trying to appease the oppressor. No more avoiding the hard, moral-political fights in exchange for the quick political victories of infrastructure bills or cheap bipartisan wins. We cannot kick the can down the road hoping the forces of good will automatically triumph without putting in the required effort.

There are even those who say we must out-organize voter suppression. To that, I would ask how are we supposed to ask citizens to fight for their rights when we have the tools to secure those said rights at our disposal? We worked hard last year to win the White House, Senate, and House and expect fruits from that labor. The patience of the American people, especially Black Americans is wearing thin. As Dr. King wrote in his letter from Birmingham Jail: “For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’…There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair…”

I would be remiss if I did not also challenge the American people. While our leaders have dropped the ball, citizens must recapture the momentum that was harnessed during the summer of 2020. Human nature is to fall back to the security of comfort and contentment. That can be dangerous, especially in a time when we must be on high alert as we defend our rights. We must remember… evil never sleeps, so we can’t either. There are some who feel, because they aren’t personally affected, they have no responsibility to join in the struggle. To that, I would say eventually, you will have to confront the forces of bigotry and injustice or you will be overcome by them. There is no escaping it. We must heed the lessons of John Lewis, Diane Nash, and others who took up the mantle of activism and struggle.

Some Americans must also come to terms with the reality that the Republican Party has been in moral decay for decades, beginning with Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy”. These same people are in denial that there is a substantial part of this nation that believes in a white supremacist state. This is the only logical byproduct for a country that was built on racism and has far too many who turn a blind eye to it. Only when the indifferent snap out of their slumber, can we truly push to obtain the freedom we strive for.

The truth is, our democracy is on life support and many of its citizens are not alarmed. Both citizens and politicians have a responsibility to protect and defend our liberty, but those in power have a responsibility to use the tools bestowed on them by the Constitution and the public. Whether it was Lincoln’s tactics to preserve the union or the fabled “Johnson treatment”, it has been proven in order to shift the direction of our nation, we have needed a radical change from the very top to help bolster the everyday efforts of those on the ground. This is not the time to hide nor to shirk reasonability. America and its leaders must awaken up from its slumber or it will be doomed to fail.



Joel Pulliam

Millennial, Biden Campaign/Voter Protection Unit alum. Passionate about civil rights, politics, music, and comics.