Thursday, July 9, 2020

Does the world still have any use for democracy?

Politics is like a never-ending wrestling match in which you are fully aware that one punch or full nelson could end the marathon, yet the combatants alternately seem to inhale extra powers just when it appears that they are knocking on heaven’s door.

The tipsy-turvy world of politics would pass for great entertainment were it not for the fact that the outcome is a matter of life or death of individuals or nations.

I have always believed in elections: simple, honest elections in which individuals, be it within a family or nation, stand behind a choice or idea they believe is best suited to make a positive difference to the family or nation.

I learned about elections and democracy decades ago when I was a high school student in Boston, Massachusetts, a state that prides itself as being “the Spirit of America”.

I have watched and witnessed many American elections, presidential and others. I have always said there is no greater spectacle than watching Americans electing their representatives and president.

The process itself carries a carnival atmosphere and leaves you astonished at how joyful the process is.                                                                                                     

And that is what it should be.

After bitterly fought elections, we used to see political opponents hugging, smiling and waving to the electorate together.                                                                             

It was possible because, like religion where people try to get to the same God from different roads, the politicians were aiming at serving the country not themselves.

Many times, I have seen those that contested against each other nominate their losing opponent to a cabinet post or to some high-ranking job in their government.

The latest such example concerns the bruising battle between former president, Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton.                                                                                         

After Obama won the presidency, he offered Mrs. Clinton any job she wanted in his administration. She accepted and became Obama’s Secretary of State for more than four years.                                                                                                                     That was a simple lesson reminding us all that political opponents are not enemies but are patriots who also aspire to drive the nation in a positive direction but using a different route.

Is it not a far cry from what we are doing in Africa, where political opponents are viewed as threats, enemies and traitors who must be jailed if not killed off altogether?  What a damn shame.

What I see today in America’s electoral process is a mockery of what I learned in my high school American History classes; it is nowhere near what I witnessed in America over the years.

There does not seem to be any semblance of electoral decency and decorum left as, like in so-called Third World countries, the practices America once forcefully condemned in Africa and elsewhere are being practiced in America itself.

‘Democracy’ was once a word associated more with America than with any other country on earth.                                                                                                           

We were not only taught about “government of the people, by the people, for the people” but it was something that some of us saw on the sidewalks of America and in the manner elected people conducted themselves.

America is not the same anymore. America’s intentions and behavior have shifted.                                   

America’s values have changed, and they have changed mostly because of fear. The melting pot has had enough. The nation built and made great by immigrants has now become scared of immigrants with those who got in first saying ‘no more’.

Like the world over, there are more and more disagreements among lawmakers and the deep partisanship of the principals involved is wreaking havoc on how the American government is being run.

Today, what I see is no longer lawmakers inviting their opposites to meet them halfway but well-pronounced political animosity that no one attempts to hide.

The absence or impotence of the law when some states violate federal laws and regulations is painful to watch. The last two elections in America have all but bonked me on the head, telling me to wise up and realise that American elections are no better than what we witness in some developing country elsewhere.

Elections in America have become so mundane and free for all that laws that govern the electoral process are being violated at will and it is not the Federal government that jumps up to protect the people’s vote. It is some organization or lone elected official who makes some noise to alert the electoral theft that has been perpetrated.                    

The absence of outrage when election process is violated in America tells its own story.

Voter fraud witnessed in the state of North Carolina would have caused shame a decade ago.                                                                                                               

Voter suppression in the state of Georgia as witnessed in these just past elections are testimony that there isn’t a government of the people, for the people or by the people.

The Republicans who lost in the states of Michigan and Wisconsin passed laws that strip incoming elected officials of any power to make changes that the people voted for.

The dishonesty in the American electoral process is just too much to stomach, especially for those who grew up using America as a beacon of democracy.

The polarization of the nation, caused by partisanship, is crippling the operations of the government. Thankfully, though, America has very strong institutions which are, unfortunately, being shaken and buttered so much that it is guaranteed that America will never be the same again. Charles Darwin professed about the survival of the fittest, a selfish but effective process that surrenders to the mortality of the weaker while the weaker lays eggs to later hatch and continue with the bloodline.

America has knocked itself off the democratic pedestal and, if I look at what happened in these past elections in the states of Florida, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota and in sprinklings of districts in several states, I do not feel encouraged about democracy at all.

The will of the people, the votes of the people are being “legally ignored” through crafty laws passed by a majority party in particular states.                                                    

Talk about the outrage of silence!

Thankfully, we still have “the world’s largest democracy”, India!                                                                                

As democracy fades away into the sunset and with its defenders dwindling, we just wonder if it will ever come back.

But don’t let that spoil your Christmas nor dampen the best of wishes the New Year has in store for the world.                                                                                                     Just pray.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.