Sunday, July 30, 2017

Can Democracy Withstand the Trump Administration Onslaught?

Democracy. In the West we take it for granted that once established, the power of its values and laws intrinsically protect society from corrupt governments forming and stripping people of their rights. The Donald Trump administration has proven us wrong.

Value systems have always collided. In the West the ugly stuff was protected by legislation and social mores that gave power and freedom of expression to racists, sexists, bigots, homophobes, xenophobes, cultural persecutors, and deprived the targets of a platform if not the right to express their frustration, anger, hurt and outrage and work towards gaining equality. Gradually, though, the underdog in every sector of society has gained power. Those who were open to enlightenment embraced the concept of human rights, and legislated to protect them.

But you can't legislate what people think, what they want, what they read. Laws can't control the racism and bigotry that lurks under the surface, building momentum, lying in wait for an authority figure to grant permission to come out into the open, be vented and acted upon.

Spiteful, mean-spirited, greedy for power, panting for the right to be cruel without facing punishment and consequence.

You can't openly legislate for how those who need protection choose to vote, but you can introduce laws that make it difficult or impossible for them to even get to the polling stations. You can gerrymander districts so that those who can vote to protect decent human values don't, effectively, have a voice. You can use the written media, TV, radio stations, the church, to manipulate minds that are already leaning that way anyway, distorting truth until it's unrecognizable. Exploiting fear of change, fear of dark skins, fear of the other.

You can target those who don't have resources, who, if they could, would vote for representatives whose aim is to enfranchise everybody, create a fair society where equality and equal opportunity are the main principles of every branch of government.

In a so-called free society, even in the strongest democracies, much of the principle of do unto others has to be left to the conscience of the individual. It's constantly evolving for many, as it should. If that many isn't the majority, or the minority gets the power, society has a problem. In the West we're used to seeing corrupt leaders in  countries with no functioning democracy. We're accustomed to watching them destroy economies, commit genocide, imprison, torture and murder opposition to the government, prohibit freedom of speech.

We've believed that America was above that. It had long been the leader of the free world. Free and fair elections, freedom of speech, protection of the press, the importance of equality at least valued by one major political party which had an equal shot at gaining the power to improve society at all levels.

But now? Freedom of the press is under threat, hate crimes are on the rise alarmingly. Truth, equality and equal opportunity are not valued by the government, nor are a clean environment or international co-operation. Greed and destruction prevail in every sector of the administration, out-picturing the mind of its dysfunctional, mentally unstable leader. As for elections, was 2016 free and fair? How is possible that a man who lost the popular vote by close to 3 million votes—more than any president in history—could become president? The point is made ad nauseam that Russian interference did not affect the actual vote tally. That's not accurate; it affected the minds of far left and far right voters very successfully. It's not hard evidence, but lack of evidence doesn't equate in reality to absence of truth.

Liberals tend to believe that the search for enlightenment in every aspect of life is innate to the human race, or at least to the vast majority, that do unto others makes sense to most of us and dictates how we relate to each other.
But in our everyday lives, why then are reality shows that thrive on humiliation,  emotional and physical punishment so popular? What about Mad Men? It depicted the sexism, feminism, homophobia, antisemitism and racism of 1960's America. Yet it was widely acclaimed as being the greatest TV show ever. Did the majority watch to be outraged and celebrate that we've moved on? I doubt it. Was it Roman-type lust for watching Christians being thrown to the lions and torn apart? Possibly. Most likely, in the light of the 2016 election result, it was a hankering after an era where social conscience was a dinosaur.

Now a vulgarian who epitomizes that dinosaur is president of what was once unquestioningly the most powerful democracy on the planet.

The biggest mistake we make in the West is believing that democracy automatically delivers what's best for everybody. It doesn't. It doesn't even deliver what's best for the majority, when the voting system has been so eroded that a racist, bigot, con artist, arch manipulator, sexual abuser, ignoramus and compulsive liar can win an election on a minority vote, with the assistance of a foreign power whose primary objective is to undermine western democracies.

The words the American people are bandied about a lot by the current Administration. Which American people would that be? Those who support the government and the President are in the minority. Donald Trump has exploited the fears and lusts of his base and successfully controlled the narrative for them. There's no doubt in reality that he is an abuser who uses whoever he can, tossing them aside like so much detritus when they no longer serve him. Yet they mindlessly endorse his abusive behaviour, his dysfunction as a president, when the policies he pushes threaten their own lives. They believe anything he says, even when he directly contradicts himself. Blind loyalty to an abuser? It's a kind of variation on Stockholm Syndrome.

The liberal press and Democratic politicians have striven valiantly to keep truth alive and democracy functioning, but in the face of Trump's monumental lies and his determination to thwart democracy, everybody is exhausted. 

For democracy to function as a force for good in society, truth must be valued. When it's under siege and the minority has power, it spells trouble. It always has. It always will. Ultimately it seems to be true, looking at the big picture, that good triumphs over evil. That's not much consolation to the lives that are destroyed in the process. It's no consolation to the Muslim, Jewish, Latino or African American children who are targeted at school, with the upsurge in hate crimes since Donald Trump's campaigning. Whose lives will never be the same again. It's no consolation to the parents who can't protect them.

It'll be no consolation to any of us if the values that keep society intact are eroded beyond recognition and democracy rendered impotent in the country that is supposed to be leading the free world.