FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Defending Democracy

In our wonderful land of America we have ongoing debates, discussions, and principled differences. To the extent those are happening by citizens focused on the issues and not on character assassination or violent threat, those robust modes of discourse are the heart of a healthy democracy.

Our democracy is increasingly unhealthy. And we are degrading the image and desirability of democracy around the world as a result. This is a reversal of a century-long trend around the world of more democracy that peaked in the 1990s. Autocrats are not only making a comeback, they are doing so with more populist support. From the racist frontrunner candidacy of Donald Trump to the atavistic emergence of a caliphate in the Middle East, we see a rollback of engaged, respectful, vigorous citizen participants in politics. Where there is a resurgence of focus on civil society participation, however, we see signs of hope, such as pockets of social activism in West Africa that focus on the lessons from Martin Luther King and the US civil rights movement, or a consortium of Palestinians struggling to transform their liberation struggle to democracy-friendly nonviolence.

Rightwing politicos declaim on American exceptionalism; they name the USA as the one nation that offers the best hope for humankind. Sadly, they then practice the “might makes right” model of imposed democracy—an oxymoronic enterprise indeed. Democracy cannot be installed at gunpoint any more than love can, or empathy, or altruism—all of which drive more and better democracy, while guns and bombs—Francis Scott Key notwithstanding—erode it. Metrics of democracy—citizen participation, inclusion, minority rights, transparency, nonviolent transition of power—are all best promoted and practiced without death threats.

Citizen engagement is at the heart of the free press—the very paper you hold or are reading online is the pulse of a democracy worthy of the name. When you engage—read it, write a letter, share it with others—and do so in a way that maintains healthy respect alongside healthy debate, you are bolstering our democracy and showing the rest of the world a better model that they will emulate. The true “arsenal of democracy” is not a nuclear navy nor a Hellfire missile rain of death from the sky. It is you, seeking information, sharing your thoughts, caring for the hearts and minds of your neighbors, even the ones with whom you disagree—especially the ones who anger you with an opinion you find objectionable.

I teach several courses that revolve around these concepts and I love watching students evolve from apathy and fatalism to outrage and violent ideation to care, capacity, and human agency. True, some never move off the cynical dime, some get stuck on pugnacity and demonization, but those who pass into the stages of engagement and rational, careful analysis and discourse are the ones I am confident will do the most good for democracy in our land, and, by extension of this evolving American experiment, the rest of the world.

More articles by:

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail