FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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

July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
Kim Ives
Haiti’s Popular Uprising Calls for President Jovenel Moïse’s Removal
John Carroll Md
Dispatch From Haiti: Trump and Breastfeeding
Alycee Lane
On Heat Waves and Climate Resistance
Ed Meek
Dershowitz the Sophist
Howard Lisnoff
Liberal Massachusetts and Recreational Marijuana
Ike Nahem
Trump, Trade Wars, and the Class Struggle
Olivia Alperstein
Kavanaugh and the Supremes: It’s About Much More Than Abortion
Manuel E. Yepe
Korea After the Handshake
Robert Kosuth
Militarized Nationalism: Pernicious and Pervasive
Binoy Kampmark
Soft Brexits and Hard Realities: The Tory Revolt
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Localization: a Strategic Alternative to Globalized Authoritarianism
Kevin Zeese - Nils McCune
Correcting The Record: What Is Really Happening In Nicaragua?
Chris Wright
The American Oligarchy: A Review
Kweli Nzito
Imperial Gangster Nations: Peddling “Democracy” and Other Goodies to the Untutored
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail