The glorious Fourth of July is approaching.
As the raucous babble of this year's election campaign roars on, it's good to remember that this nation of ours is a continuing, ongoing experiment.
The central question is this: Can the people of this nation — or any nation — govern themselves?
We pride ourselves on being a democracy, but of course we are not the direct kind of democracy where every citizen votes on every issue. Instead, we elect men and women to represent us.
From local city councils to state governments to the federal government in Washington, D.C., we have the right, we have the duty, to elect the people we want to govern in our name and to expect those we elect to follow our wishes in making the hard decisions of government.
The great Athenian leader Pericles said that in Athens a man who takes no interest in government is regarded not as a harmless citizen, but as a useless citizen.
That applies here and now.
Too many of us take too little interest in politics. We might vote in November, but the rest of the year we'd rather not bother ourselves with the issues and problems of our community, our nation or the world. That's what we elected our representatives to do, wasn't it?
But what good is a citizen's precious right to vote if that citizen is not an informed voter? Look at the campaign advertisements and speeches. They don't deal with the issues. Candidates don't spell out how they will solve the problems we face. Instead, they go about attacking each other on contrived issues that appeal to voters' emotions.
Campaign speeches and ads are long on emotional appeals, short on specific proposals of how to solve our problems. Mitt Romney accuses President Barack Obama of presiding over the worst financial recession since the 1930s. Obama accuses Romney of being a job killer instead of a job creator.
Both men, of course, are appealing to their base of confirmed supporters. The chances are they will both move toward the center as the campaign progresses, because they both need the votes of the citizens who are not zealots of the left or of the right.
The condition of our economy will likely be a key factor in November's election. But again, that will be largely an emotional factor, a matter of voter perceptions, not hard facts.
Style and emotional appeals will, as usual, outweigh cold, hard analyses of the problems we face and the candidates' proposed solutions.
This is nothing new.
I remember when I was a high school student, reading about French history. Louis Napoleon was elected president of France mainly on the strength of his name and his distant relationship to the Emperor Napoleon.
A Parisian news reporter asked a voter leaving the polling place who he had voted for. The voter, an army veteran, replied heatedly, "I? I whose nose was frozen in Moscow? Of course I voted for Napoleon!"
It seemed to me, even at that tender age, that if I'd been in the French army in 1812 and had my nose frozen in that ill-considered invasion of Russia, a man named Napoleon would be the last candidate I'd vote for. But emotion triumphed over reason.
In Egypt today the experiment of democracy is just beginning.
Egypt saw the rise of one of the earliest civilizations, more than 7,000 years ago. This year the Egyptian people held their first-ever free, democratic election. Now the question is whether the generals will step down from power and allow the people to have their way.
In Egypt, the experiment begins. Here in the U.S., it continues.
Happy Fourth of July.
Bova's latest novel is "Power Play," a political technothriller. His website address is www.benbova.com.