I am sure, if you have gone to even one protest in your life, that you know the chant: “This is what democracy looks like.” That is pretty much it, over and over. We are in the street, banging on water jugs, and this is what democracy looks like. This is what democracy looks like.
I hate it because we can’t simply chant about democracy and have one that is actually good for people. I, of course, dislike chanting in general though, seeing it as a rather loud and mindless way to spend time I could have used having a conversation where I and another person were given the opportunity to grow together. But I digress. Sort of.
A society can be democratic and unjust, if you believe in the concept of justice anyway, and/or cruel and/or hypocritical. We can be democratic and be a whole host of other things.
There is a logical fallacy called The Appeal to Popularity, wherein one claims that a position is true because many people believe it to be true. Many people can be quite wrong, about facts, and about morality, especially when they do not speak to one another and are, in fact, many people who are totally alone in their thoughts.
Democracy isn’t the goal of our work, as far as I am concerned, though it may be a pretty good partial strategy. The goal is goodness, morality: a way of living together that is humane. And goodness, morality and humanity are realities we build with other people and to do that we have to do something much harder than march, or gripe (or say classist things about Stupid Rednecks), or chant, or even petition — as miserable an activity as that is — we have to talk with each other. We have to inform and be informed about the reality of the other and oneself.
I would like to suggest that a good response to North Carolina may well not be a snarky reiteration of the rights of the individual — which damn if we don’t have down to such a degree that we don’t even know who our neighbor is anymore, as we say all the time, chantlike, to whomever our choir is; and isn’t that the problem here, organized insularness? — but a greater movement toward community. In the strategy of democracy this may be our best option. Inclusive community starts with me and you.
Windy Cooler is a psychology student at Goddard College. A long-time organizer and former teenage-mother-welfare-queen, she writes about the emotional lives of activists. She has two sons and lives in suburban DC. She can be reached at: WindyCooler@gmail.com.