If Democracy died tomorrow, what would that look like? Did your brain automatically jump to an apocalyptic scene? Are you envisioning a place with no freedoms? Maybe a fascist regime, or something close? Did you instantly feel all the air and color leave the room? This is what I imagine when I think of Democracy’s decline. I imagine freedom of expression no longer existing. A world where everyone just falls in line to do what they’re told regardless of the outcome. Questions no longer are posed, because no one answers to the people. Joy, happiness, and prosperity are no longer considered the American dream but instead a selfish pursuit. Your opinion is handed to you in weekly broadcasts by the powers that be. Now that we have that sad picture in our minds of what the death of Democracy looks like, let’s talk about how it happens.
How is Democracy Dying?
Most of my readers live in America. Land of the Free! The idea that Democracy is dying here to many seems unlikely, while seeming obvious to others. Regardless of where you stand on this, I think it’s important for us to explore what Democracy is. Only then can we clearly make the connection about where it’s being attacked, so we can stop the hemorrhaging. One common definition of Democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections”. With that in mind, we need to consider what supports that kind of system, and on the flip side what threatens it. I think freedom is the clear answer. More specifically freedom of speech, religion, the press, to assemble, etc. When anyone of these freedoms are interrupted they thwart our ability to elect leaders of our choosing, and to exercise our options through the courts of redress when we or our fellow citizens have been wronged.
Numerous attempts from our current administration have been made to try to walk back both our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. From lawsuits to literally pushing back the lines where people are allowed to demonstrate, the evidence that these freedoms are under attack is clear. Assaults on the free press both physically, through the courts, as well as through various media have alarmingly demonstrated that reporting the truth is under active fire. Add to this the blurring of church and state at the federal level and it paints a picture that America may not be much longer “the land of the free” if we don’t all rise up together to demand our freedoms stay in tact, whole and unmolested.
What do we need to know to fight back?
We can start by remembering our radical roots.Remembering who we are, who we came from, and what dreams they had for us when they fought their good fight. Once we reclaim our heritage we can find our way forward stepping back onto the path of Democracy and remake the landscape of America back into that image. So what are the basic freedoms our forefathers imagined us taking hold of? In Harvey J Kaye’s book “The Fight for the Four Freedoms” he outlines those as freedom from want and fear, and freedom of speech and religion. I think these four freedoms are a great umbrella that cover a myriad of sub group issues that currently are up for constant debate. I could write a full article on each, and most likely will, but for now I’ll just touch on why protecting these four freedoms are crucial to our democracy.
The first on this list should be obvious. The freedom from want. Those who have studied history understand how the great depression literally almost killed our nation and democracy with it. When people stand in such desperate need of jobs, food, housing, medical care, and education for better employment,or quite frankly hope they lack the energy or means to take part in the democratic process of researching and voting for their local and federal candidates. The starving can’t live on ideas, they need to concentrate on what will sustain them. FDR saw this and hatched a genius plan called the New Deal, investing in the people through job creation, building up our country and thus putting democracy truly back in the hands of the people once more.
The second, freedom from fear is increasingly becoming a serious freedom under attack. We can assume a lot about what FDR meant by freedom from fear. At the time he meant a freedom from fear of any nation rising up in the armaments race as superior, thus setting them up to annihilate anyone who stood against them. Today this issue is as big, if not bigger than it was in FDR’s day. With increased technology, massive military budgets, and the rise of fascism world wide, keeping our country from being a target, or starting unnecessary wars is a constant challenge. One that must be met with dedication to lessening conflicts, not inciting them in the name of profit or power.
The third freedom to me is what keeps all the others safe from destruction. Freedom of speech. This freedom is always a partner with freedom of the press, for they cannot function without each other. The people’s right to not only speak up individually but also disperse the truth worldwide to me is the most crucial of all. Without a free press, and the individual freedom of speech Democracy simply cannot function. The people need to be free to be informed, discuss openly current issues, and speak out when they feel their rights are being violated. Without freedom of speech and freedom of the press citizens are left with no options to fight against tyrannical governments.
Last but certainly not least, freedom of religion is quite literally the hottest topic since the earth began spinning. Millions have died in defense of this right throughout the world and time. Freedom to express your religion, or lack thereof is truly how America was born. America was founded on this radical idea that no one should be able to dictate to you what you believe, or how you choose to either practice it or not. This to me signifies America’s great commitment to the individual within a community. The respect granted to every person to be who they are, as they are without interruption is truly a “divine” ideal. Only when we respect who others are can we truly unite as a community. Now that we’ve taken a little refresher on what freedoms are under siege and why they’re important to Democracy, let’s talk about what we can do individually, and as united citizens to right the ship.
What can we do about it?
I get this question a lot. Which in itself makes me hopeful. It points to people feeling unsettled by the wrong they see in this world, and a deep desire to want to fix it. The answer I feel has three integral parts. To enact the changes we need to see, we need to do all of these things.
First we must educate ourselves. What does that mean? It means we need to study many sources, follow current news, learn our laws, sit in on political discussions, attend debates, investigate our candidates, learn about other cultures politics, and study history. The triumphs and tragedies of history are the best teachers of all. We live in a great technological time, where we only have to look to our phones to gain wisdom. The information is waiting there if you’re diligent. Without the facts you cannot fight the forces of fascism that are out there. Make no mistake, Fascists know history. They use it as a playbook and outline for every step they make. Fascists follow the like of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. They have their mentors, you need yours.
The second way to fight for Democracy is using more semi-passive means. The internet and social media have opened up endless avenues by which we can learn, and speak out and organize with like minded individuals. I sit here at this moment literally typing out part of the way I speak out. From social media, chatrooms, blogs, email blasts, text messages, pod casts, etc we have so many ways to express our ideas to the world and to our leaders. While I highly recommend you take advantage of all of the ways to get our leaders to hear your voice, I recommend mostly the third part of the puzzle. Activism
We just got to my favorite part. This is where I tell you to go on to all your social media, email, and phone a friend to join you as you get up, and get out there! Activism is the the most effective way to force change since government became a thing. Every single cause that has ever seen success has seen it come to fruition through demonstrating. Protests, strikes, walk outs, blockades, flyer distribution, call outs, letter distribution, pop up political art, boycotts,campaign volunteering, and of course voting all get the picture across to the powers that be that we are a government of the people, and will not be silenced. Only when we show our power and numbers do we reclaim what is ours.
Hopefully I have stirred up a little of who you are back up to the surface, and your mind is filling with ideas and radical plans of what you can do, and where you stand to make the world a better place by fighting for democracy. This article was meant merely as an opener for my discussion tomorrow on my YouTube channel ‘That’s Jacqueline” with author Harvey J. Kaye where we’ll be continuing this discussion on the what, why’s and how’s involved in our fight for Democracy. Please join us. I will leave you with this quote from Thomas Paine to stir up in your heart a desire to do your part in this struggle to keep Democracy alive for all those striving for safety and happiness worldwide. I hope to see great things come from the united efforts we all make on behalf of freedom and democracy, born of our love for each other and the world we all share.
“I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.” — Thomas Paine, The Age Of Reason
Call To Action
Join me on my YouTube channel as I interview author Harvey J. Kaye about his very relevant books “The Fight for the Four Freedoms” and ” Thomas Paine and the Promise of America”. We’ll be having an in depth discussion on the dangers we face ahead if we don’t get back to our radical roots and insist on change. Harvey has been a very vocal voice on this issue and is sure to bring great insight on where we went wrong, and what steps we need to take to course correct. Below you’ll find the link to the That’s Jacqueline YouTube Channel and to Harvey’s Books. I suggest picking up a copy to pre-read ahead of the episode launch so you can follow along, and contribute to the conversation in chat. Schools in kids, study up and educate yourselves on our countries current plight.