Has the ‘Tide of Democracy’ Turned?
February 4, 2021
6 days into this new year, a year that was supposed to be the harbinger of positive change after a dark year, I watched, in horror, the coverage of the storming of the Capitol. I couldn’t help but ignore the rather sinister tone that this event possessed. Here was a building that was meant to exemplify democracy at its finest, being stormed by an angry mob incited by an incumbent, power-crazy president.
And yet, as horrifying as the event was, it did not emerge spontaneously. No, it was nurtured by several forces of society, with politicians being one of the many culprits.
I couldn’t help but draw parallels to events within history, like the Reichstag fire that invariably gave the Nazi party its power and prominence within German society.
Which led me to wonder, is there a natural rhythm and cycle to our world’s history? Are we inherently masochists, forcing ourselves to be subject to past mistakes so that we may be reminded of their lessons?
The US is not alone in this moment of divisive rhetoric, where the foundations of liberal democracy are being tested. Across Europe, Asia, and South America, the world seems to be ticking towards a more repressive society.
We even see the repetition of some of humanity’s most heinous crimes, such as ethnic cleansing, in China’s genocide camps, and the pursuit of the Rohingya Muslims.
Beyond such obvious violations of human liberty, we continue to see the rise of polarization throughout society, and increasing intolerance to reason with the ‘other side’. A lot of this has been driven by the advent of social media and its ability to give us a sense of security while we remain enclosed in our respective bubbles.
It is now a rarity to find someone whose ideology cannot be neatly packaged into a dot on a political spectrum; nuance has all but disappeared in mainstream politics.
But discourse and debate are healthy. It is the means through which we can challenge each other to grow beyond the confines of our identities. But in order to have productive conversations, all parties involved must uphold certain standards. Standards of respect for one another and integrity. However, in a world where diametrically opposed truths can exist and where the line between fact and fiction grows increasingly blurred and contested, I cannot help but wonder “United we stand” but on what?
In times of constant uncertainty, an ‘us versus them’ rhetoric can be comforting and give a sense of community and, therefore, stability. But be warned, choosing to stoke such a fire can only end badly, for how can we live in a world where we cannot have a civil conversation with someone who does not think as we do? The world is too interconnected and diverse for us to ignore each other.
Democracy, in its purest form, is inefficient and takes a lot of work to maintain, yes. But sometimes, efficiency is not the be-all and end-all. Democracy is a system in which we are meant to challenge each other, yes, but we are also all meant to pursue the ideals of liberty, truth, and justice.
In light of the storming of the Capitol, several members of Congress called for the impeachment of Trump, and a week after the storming, on January 13th, 2021, the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump for the second time.
There were many voices of doubt in regards to whether or not Trump should be impeached, they worried that it would take the Senate’s resources and attention away from the incoming Biden administration.
Senator Bernie Sanders, in response, said, “Some people ask: Why would you impeach a president who has only a few days left in office? The answer: Precedent. It must be made clear that no president, now or in the future, can lead an insurrection against the U.S. government.”
Sanders may have been speaking solely about the U.S. government, but his message still rings true beyond the borders of the U.S. If we are to exist in a society in which we want our voices to be heard, our lives to matter, and our governments to work for us rather than against us, we all have to do the work. We have to hold ourselves accountable to remaining informed citizens that challenge the forces of cynicism in our world.
We must do the work to uphold democracy, there is no other way.