I wrote this today in response to a friend who asked what does Democracy look like? I am posting it here because it contains my feelings about where we are today in America. Democracy is possible in America, but there is much we all need to learn before it can happen here.
Democracy looks like a place where people vote for somebody or some party that will make their lives better. If everybody voted for the party that would make their lives better than the lives of the majority would get better. This of course assumes that the powerful minority allows such a party to exist and participate in the elections and the majority are allowed to vote. We do not have that in this country. The powerful minority completely controls both parties and does all that is necessary to ensure that no other party can truly exist.
We technically allow all to vote, although voter suppression efforts have reach new heights both in quantity and in sophistication in the last several elections, but don't allow people to vote on the issues that are most important to the people. Neither candidate, Obama nor Hillary, was for peace, for reduction in Military spending, for renegotiating the so called "free trade" agreements, or for rewriting campaign finance rules. Of course, when the collapse of our financial system happened in the fall of 2008, nobody spoke louder about the need to support the existing corrupt financial institutions than Obama. He was rewarded handsomely for his brave stance in defense of the status quo, and received more campaign contributions from Wall Street in the final weeks of his campaign than any candidate in the History of the US.
The final part of our dilemma is the complete ignorance and misunderstanding of the problems we face, and the actions that our government takes both inside our country and outside our borders, by the vast majority of our population. When we started organizing against the war in Iraq, I thought that once people learned the true nature of our actions in Iraq and other places around the world, the majority of American's would demand that our policies change. But as I watched events unfold in the spring/summer of 2003 and watched my fellow citizens reactions to those events I came to realize that a more fundamental change was needed and that fundamental change would most likely not come about.
People did not want to believe what was plain for all to see because their own self worth was tied into the justness of the American cause and the success of the American Military. Even if the media had been more forthright and honest in it's reporting, which it was not, many people in this country would have rejected all evidence of wrong doing on our part. There was plenty in the news about our misdeeds if you choose to look, but there was also plenty of "news" available to support our cause and our Military, and it was the later "news" that the majority of American's choose to watch and believe.
But, it is not only in foreign policy matters that ignorance prevails in our society. Fifty to Sixty years of lies and misinformation passed off as news has left us totally unprepared to face today's challenges. Those who are permitted to rise to any position of power have first been required to swear allegiance to those lies and have come to truly believe them. This is true of both Parties. So that even the honest ones, who may truly want to solve the various crises we currently face, are incapable of conceiving solutions because the solutions are in direct conflict with the lies that they hold so dear. Of course the corrupt ones in power, just milk the system for their own personal gain, but that is another whole issue which might be correctable, if not for the other problems mentioned above.
I share your disgust with our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Columbia, Somalia, Haiti and wherever else we may be engaged in warfare that we don't even know about. But, I am equally disgusted by the disintegration of our inner cities and rural countryside. The sorrid conditions which we allow people to live in, right here in the "richest" country the world has ever known, is a disgrace. The fact that people take to the streets protesting the thought that they might be provided with health care. Their demand that their freedom to die young because they lack health care must not be infringed upon must seem incomprehensible to people all over the world.
I would like to stop all of our wars, including the war on drugs, but we must face the facts that unless our media delivery systems are reformed and democratized and the huge need for money is removed from our political campaigns, change will not come. Some gains have been made in these areas, but we continue to loose more than we gain.
I am not sure how to end this rant. So, I will close by paraphrasing Desmond Tutu's vision of hope. Hope is a choice, we choose to hope for a better tomorrow, because to do otherwise would only lead us to despair. But as long as we can continue to hope for a better tomorrow than a better tomorrow is possible.