Watching a Government Wash Down the Drain

            Whenever I have my phone or keys in my hand, and I walk across a street drain, I clutch them more tightly. I have a fear of dropping them down a drain, making them forever irretrievable.

            Unfortunately, I cannot clutch the government of the country I’ve lived in all my life, the government of a country that made people want to come here and live because this government was believed to be better than so many others. Here there were freedoms and fair elections. This country was an idea and an ideal that people in other countries recognized as being special and rare. We called it a “democracy.”

            But it turns out that a fair number of Americans did not like or appreciate democracy, and it seems that they have resented “the experiment” for some time. The very pluralism that helped make America stand out was a source of irritation for many. It got in the way of the maintenance and growth of white supremacy, and that was not acceptable. (https://www.fordfoundation.org/news-and-stories/stories/posts/democracy-is-a-threat-to-white-supremacy-and-that-is-the-cause-of-america-s-crisis/)

            Since the 2016 election, this country has been on a downward spiral, with things like truth and ethics being washed away as lies and racial hatred and an almost hysteric series of actions designed to keep white people in power. Fox News has helped the process, but so has the mainstream media. The rights of Americans are being taken away, bit by bit, and are being lost in drains that move swirling waters of raw political ambition further and further away from even a chance of those rights being retrieved and saved.

            While the Republicans have been largely silent and have defended the attacks on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, calling what happened legitimate political discourse, they have been quick to condemn people in this country who for the most part have engaged in peaceful protests for their constitutionally guaranteed freedoms – including freedom of speech, religion, the press, and assembly.

            The only freedom for them that is sacrosanct to them is the freedom to bear arms, a freedom that leads to untimely and unnecessary death, not life, as they proclaim to support.

            It is probably not hyperbole to say that millions of Americans wake up every day to see if the Department of Justice is going to do something to plug the drains before there is so much water in them that the drains will overflow. But there is nothing, and the people who are running roughshod over the right of people to be treated as human beings are getting more and more emboldened. They are cocky about their capacity to be white in this country and get away with pretty much whatever they want, a sentiment that was expressed by one woman who participated in the insurrection who said she would not be arrested because she was “white with blonde hair and blue eyes.” (https://www.dallasobserver.com/news/jenna-ryan-convinced-she-wont-go-to-jail-apologizes-for-having-white-skin-blond-hair-12000445)

            All that is going on is part of the work to “make America great again,” but what people are yearning for was not great. It was filled with discrimination, racism, sexism and unfettered violence. It was a country that allowed and encouraged discrimination against people who were easily identifiable and not worry about being held accountable. It was a country that supported the rights of wealthy white men, primarily, who brought their women along although they treated them as objects just as they did non-white men and women.

            These people cannot be called Republicans. Or Christian. Or Conservative. They are nationalists, rabid supporters of white supremacy. In the current controversy about the renunciation of a woman’s right to choose whether or not she will (or can) carry a fetus, they are blind by their quest for white male domination, and unconcerned about “liberty and justice for all.” They believe not just in big government, but in enormous government, a government that controls every aspect of the lives of its citizens. They want control of women’s bodies, yes, but also control of a woman’s right to privacy, the right to use contraception, and a child’s right not to be forced to carry a fetus after having been raped by a stranger or family member.

            They want to end public education, get rid of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, raise taxes for the very poor, and make everyone practice the same religion. (https://thehill.com/homenews/media/581443-michael-flynn-says-of-the-us-we-have-to-have-one-religion/)

            We are watching it happen in real-time. Those who hate democracy, who ignore the Great Commandment that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves – a commandment that appeared in the Hebrew Scriptures and was repeated by Jesus -are on a mission. The United States Supreme Court is not a believer in liberty and justice for all; it is and has always been, a political tool used to uphold and protect white supremacy, which attacks not only the rights of Black people, but of Brown and Asian and Indigenous Americans, women, and anyone whom they think is not “American” enough. Women, even white women, are not protected from white male nationalism. They will see, but by then, it will be too late.

            When something falls into a drain, the rushing water pushing it along, there is a sense of hopelessness as you reach and try to catch it before it gets out of reach. But the water is strong and the drain is there; your phone or keys or glasses are gone forever.

            If we can plug the drain, if we can put something over the grid to slow the water down, we may save democracy. But we had better move more quickly than we have. The storm of white nationalism is getting more and more intense, and we are all at risk.

A candid observation …

Requiem for America’s Mythical Democracy

            The debacle of the Trump impeachment process ended, for all intents and purposes, with the GOP-led Senate refusing to allow witnesses and documents which were said to support the charges of the president’s abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

In spite of some very few die-hard optimists who hoped for a miracle of justice, the GOP senators followed the lead of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. In spite of some Republican senators admitting that the president had, in fact, done something wrong, his offenses did not rise to the level of deserving impeachment.

When the president is acquitted of wrongdoing, he will be free to continue his disembowelment of the American democracy as we have known it, but he is not the primary source of this state of being in this country. If the truth be told, even the Founders did not wholly believe in the concept of democracy, where everyone, rich and poor, black and white, male and female, would have an equal voice and equal rights. The concept of “one person, one vote” was understood from this country’s birth to mean “one white wealthy man, one vote.”

The Founding Fathers had problems with what the phrase “we the people” meant. While it was an idealistic goal to have all of the people of the nation participate in its governance, the truth of the matter is that many of the founders thought that to be not only impossible but impractical. The problem was that the country was set up to be run by a small group of wealthy white men. The masses of people, who steadily increased the ranks of the poor, were a threat to what the founders wanted this country would be. Alexander Hamilton said “the people are turbulent and changing; they seldom judge or determine right. Give, therefore, to the first class a distinct permanent share in the government.” (Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States)

It was the wealthy, therefore, wealthy, white, Protestant males who set this country up with the firm belief that this country should function as an oligarchy.

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Democracy, they thought, was a problem, because a true democracy required something of the masses that they often did not want or could not handle. In the end, the masses were not able to govern themselves, and hence, would lean toward an authoritarian government. Hamilton’s assertion that the masses were turbulent and changing supported the contention made years later by Shawn Rosenberg who said: “human brains are not made for self-rule.” (https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/09/08/shawn-rosenberg-democracy-228045) The chasm between the poor and the wealthy makes the capacity for more turbulence all the greater, leading to the poor fighting against each other and blaming each other for a piece of economic power that was never intended to be passed on to them.

            We in America have basked in a sort of pseudo-democracy for years, but the powers that be, the very wealthy, have always been in the middle of government, leading the way and calling the shots. Presidents, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson have all exercised excessive power – an abuse of power according to the US Constitution, yet people have acquiesced and given in because they (we) have trusted wealth and the dream of becoming wealthy more than they (we) have trusted our collective power. Democracies die, say experts, not from guns and missiles, but through the acquiescence of people, people who vote them into office and keep them there.

            The United States Senate’s refusal to call witnesses in the impeachment of the current president is not surprising, given that they represent the power class and have grown wary of so many people of color coming into the country and, they believe, threatening their power and therefore, their wealth. Making America “great” again is about fixing what many believe to be the skewing of the American government model – where wealthy, white men govern the masses and it seems that many in the ranks of the masses want to be controlled and led rather than taking on the responsibility of living and working in a true democracy.

With the president’s almost sure acquittal next week, one thing is certain: the façade of this government being a well-oiled, functioning democracy will finish the crumbling that began years ago, only to be accelerated by the Trump presidency. America the mythical democracy is in decline. What will rise up in its place is yet to be seen, but it will surely not be a place where “one person, one vote” is the norm, and where “all” people are considered to be equal.

But then, that wasn’t the plan as the country was formed. As the guardrails of the myth of democracy come crumbling down, it will be interesting to see what kind of government America really is.

A candid observation.

Watching Democracy Crumble

             I have been silent, not writing much, watching what is going on in our country. It is troubling and frightening. It has been disappointing to see Republican lawmakers allow the president to run roughshod over the constitutional requirements of those who have been elected to office; they are supposed to “protect and defend” that document, which I call “sacred.” Continue reading “Watching Democracy Crumble”

The Scariest​ Thing

The scariest thing about all that is going on in our country politically is not the antics and behavior of the president – although he is a troubling reality – but it is the people who are lining up behind this man, willing to throw away everything they worked for in order to prove themselves to be “loyal” to the president. Continue reading “The Scariest​ Thing”

Denying a Creeping Autocracy

             Whenever anyone in this country talks about what is happening here and compares it to what happened in other democracies that fell to an autocratic leader, there is stern rebuke and criticism. Just as we deny our racism and sexism and the other “isms” that plague our lives, we are in denial now that there is a serious transformation happening in our government – and it isn’t good.

Our “democracy” is undergoing a radical change under the leadership of the current president, and while, in anticipation of the upcoming 2020 general election, the battle cry of “never socialism” is being tossed about more and more, in fact, there ought to be an equal groundswell, a counter-argument, where we  declare that we will never be a dictatorship.

In his book Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law, author James Q. Whitman writes that “the same aspects of American life that appealed to Nazis seventy-five years ago are with us again.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn D-SC) and said that the current president and his family are “one of the greatest threat to democracy” he has seen in his lifetime,  correctly noting that the German people elected Hitler to be chancellor. (https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/congress/clyburn-calls-trump-family-greatest-threats-democracy-my-lifetime-n985131)

Dr. Tom Snyder, in his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century makes the same observation. The history of modern democracy, says Snyder, is one of “decline and fall,” and he notes how “European democracies collapsed into right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in the 1920s and 30s.” He says that both fascism and communism “were responses to globalization, and says that while Americans “might be tempted to think that our democratic heritage automatically protects us from such threats,” history shows that to be a dangerous way of thinking.

Our country has never been a pure democracy, not if one believes that in a democracy a basic foundational principle is “egalitarianism.” Frederick Douglass recognized that America’s founding documents, including its Constitution, were “flawed from the beginning” because they were not inclusive of all races, religions, and gender. From the beginning, the wonderful phrase “all men are created equal” was tainted by an underlying belief in white supremacy and all that that ideological system includes.

In spite of our stated belief in democracy, the fact is that democracies too often fall to authoritarian figures. Snyder notes that “most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given.” He calls it “anticipatory obedience,” and says that it is a political tragedy. It is not a new phenomenon, but I at least had hope that the American governmental structure, including checks and balances, would prevent our country from beginning its downward spiral to authoritarianism.

The fact of the matter is that up to this point, checks and balances have failed; the only arm of the federal government which seems serious in upholding the US Constitution on that principle is the US Congress, now dominated by Democrats. The Republican-led and controlled Congress were disappointingly sycophantic in their blind allegiance and support of the president.

The GOP lawmakers have been following along because such a large portion of the GOP base is in favor and is supportive of everything this president does, even if it adversely affects them and their lives, but nobody is really talking about that. Our media spends too much of its time talking about how despicable the president is. Too few people care.

When democracies have fallen in other countries, the masses who have supported them have often been surprised, saying that they never thought “it” could happen to them. Their surprise is reminiscent of those in whose neighborhoods there is a violent crime. Too many of us live in bubbles that are comfortable and which feel safe and we like to stay inside of them, closing our eyes and shutting our ears to what is happening around us. In so doing, we make ourselves vulnerable to attack and in the matter of government, a demolition of democracy. Dictatorships led by authoritarian leaders and a group of lackeys are not prone to helping the masses live better lives. Their concern is for their own accumulation of power and wealth.

America is in a bad place, but too many Americans will not own it and therefore are ill-equipped to fight it. I hope that this period of time passes with at least a smidgen of our democracy in place. Democracies rise and fall; that is a historical reality. My prayer is that our democracy can survive this assault and attack and that the American people – all of us – will still be able to claim this country as our own once this administration has run its course.