I was shocked recently when I read that science museums across this nation have refused to show educational documentaries that explain the theory of the evolution of humans because of fear of antagonizing some religious zealots. Powerful forces in this nation are attempting to influence medical centers, universities, research organizations and performing arts centers and museums to conform to their narrow biases and prejudices. These forces are both from the right and left. Self-censorship is occurring in order to placate these groups. In Washington, it appears that the present occupant of the Presidential Mansion does not allow debate within the administration. Colin Powell, our former Secretary of State, resigned after the election. Many attribute this resignation to his realization that only one point of view can be expressed freely at cabinet meetings. This point of view must be the view of the group. Intelligence from the CIA and other intelligence gathering organizations are discounted if the intelligence is contrary to the group think of the Bush administration. In recent Senate hearings, the management style of the administration was described as “kiss up, kick down”. Management styles whether in government or business mold the society we live in.
Many people in any society work for large organizations. Usually, they have little input or power within the organization. The result is that people feel they little control over their lives. Many behave in ways that are detrimental to themselves and others. We all know that unfair and hostile working environments can be disastrous to physical and mental health. Many of the social ills that are evident in society are rooted in the lack of participation in decision-making and a lack of free flow of ideas. It is dangerous not to allow ideas to be expressed. There are many philosophies of life that I consider abhorrent. Despite my distaste, these philosophies should be allowed to be expressed in the marketplace of ideas. Our legislators should not change the rules regarding debate to satisfy partisan needs. Recent attempts by the GOP in congress to change the filibuster rules may result in some proposals and nominations not being sufficiently discussed. If ideas are not expressed in legitimate forums, they may be expressed in the streets or through the use of violence.
Ideas need to be expressed at the workplace. Grievances should be expressed and addressed. Many employers feel there would be diminished profit margins if they allow their employees the opportunity to join and form unions. Unless there are covenants between employer and employee in the workplace, the larger community suffers; democracy cannot end at the factory gate or office door.
A democratic people must evolve through the practice of decision-making and cooperation between people of diverse backgrounds, interests and beliefs on a continuous basis. Our democracy in this nation is weak. Surveys indicate that only a minority of Americans vote.
Many find their lack of power in their everyday life to influence the powerful overwhelming and are not willing to trust the electoral process. It would appear the Electoral College should be abolished because it gives the impression that some votes really do not matter.
Our system has evolved throughout our history. At one time, blacks were not considered citizens, women could not vote, poll taxes were part of some states’ history, and state legislators elected US senators.
Political systems evolve and we need to examine our own system before we attempt to export democracy abroad. Many in this country feel voiceless and powerless. Long lines at voting places, hanging chads, the manipulation of voting districts for partisan gain, and the lack of participation by the majority of people in decisions that have an effect on themselves and their families weaken democracy at home. The last two Presidential elections have and deserve to be criticized by people who believe in democracy and protection of minority rights.
Former President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and former Secretary of State James A Baker, (a close friend of the Bush family) a Republican are now leading a bipartisan academic commission financed with private money to review the federal election system. The report will be submitted to Congress in September.
This is a positive sign.
The Progressive recommends that union organization be encouraged, that independent committees of distinguished members of the community submit electoral district boundaries to state legislators for approval, that the Electoral College be abolished and that voting results are distributed only after all polling places are closed.
Let the United States improve democracy here before exporting it abroad with the cost of billions of dollars and lives!