Democracy: Are We or Aren’t We?

We revel in our democracy.  We try to export democracy to other countries throughout the world, oftentimes incurring wars, forfeiting tens of thousands of American lives and billions of dollars  just to make everyone else as liberated, advanced and enlightened as we supposedly are.  If democracy is a way of life and government here, where is the democracy in health care?  Are our democratic ideals only convenient words to increase our power base?  Are our founding principles only status symbols for the wealthy and for corporate interests to rape the rest of us?   Seems to me that if the United States looks like a democracy, smells like a democracy, and most important, has a Constitution that lays down the laws of a democracy, we damn well better get on with offering our citizens their democratic rights.

Listen carefully to this interview by Michael Moore (“Sicko”) of a former member of Parliament Tony Benn.  Mr Benn explains the historical development of Britain’s universal health care system as a natural outgrowth of the democratic process:

Mr. Benn also explains why, as democratic governance grew with such advances as giving women and the poor the vote, political power historically in the hands of the elite few spread to the masses.  More importantly, the power of the wealthy and corporate interests decline when democracy is on the rise.

This is EXACTLY what our health care battle is all about right now in our own country.  The battle we are fighting is against the well-to-do and corporate interests that do not want to share the mighty buck with the rest of our people.  It is capitalism at its very worst, trying to outlaw affordable health care for everyone.  Make no mistake: anytime a program is labelled “socialized”, the real meaning is that the rich are entitled to have those rights but the poor are not.  Furthermore, “government controlled”  is a term used to tarnish equal rights for all of us.  Branding government help for the masses as undemocratic is merely a last ditch effort by the powers that be to hold on to their outdated, unfair power.

The following study shows that disparity in American income levels is at an all time high.  This does not bode well for our democracy to flourish.  As the few command and control a larger portion of resources, the masses get even less and less.  In terms of health care, this grab by the elite few to keep these life and death services in the realm of capitalistic profit just may foment civil unrest and anger.

Health care is a right, not a privilege.  As Paul Krugman points out, this issue must be removed from the halls of political and corporate power:

It has been a foolish pattern of allowing health care to be paired with one’s financial station.  In a country of over 300 million people, government absolutely has an obligation to provide for all of us.  This is not the sleepy America of Revolutionary War times, over 250 years ago.  Our population, and thus, our needs, have geometrically grown.  So we must adapt our government and safety net accordingly.

We must also steadfastly hold on to our democratic ideals in foreign affairs.  Our deliberate use of inflammatory, anti-democratic terms is also apparent in our justification of political power run amok.  The other day, I heard an interview on the radio of a former FBI or CIA agent —- forgive me, I did not get his name.  The interviewer was asking this former U. S. agent some questions about water boarding.  The journalist posed the dilemma: how can we, as a nation, justify our use of water boarding with Al-Qaeda when we prosecuted Japan in World War II and Korea during the Korean War for the same heinous crimes?  The agent said simply, and unbelievably to me, that no enemy had been as destructive and evil as Al-Qaeda.  What?  Only OUR enemies are the epitome of evil with no equal?  This self-serving twisting of events is not an acceptable application of our democratic laws.  It is an outright violation against international law and and a crime against our Constitution.  A society is only as moral and ethical as its laws and its adherence to those laws.   To do otherwise is a violation of everything that went before in the enactment of those legal codes.  We might as well have no laws at all.  That is called anarchy.

Many highly placed elected officials, such as Dick Cheney, George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, along with more than a handful of Democrats, justify our use of water boarding as “desperate times call for desperate measures.”  They are wrong.  Desperate times call for an even stricter adherence to our democratic ideals, ethics and the laws on our books.  If we choose to obviate all the strictures enacted to create a lawful society, then our country will deteriorate into utter chaos.

At this juncture, President Obama must decide if he is going to be the leader of a true democracy or just a convenient democracy.  Is health care a privilege for only those who can afford it?  Is our presence in Afghanistan and our torture practices respectful of international and domestic law?  Should those officials of past administrations who allowed  torture be punished for their disregard for the law or simply swept under the carpet?  Seems to me that if our most highly placed politicians do not have to uphold the law, neither should the rest of us.  These are tough issues, but as our leader, President Obama has to set the example.

Are we a democracy really, or are we just giving lip service to those ideals?  It is the eleventh hour now.  Time to get on the ship or just watch it sail away.  No more tap dancing around the health care issue and no more conducting immoral torture without appropriate punishment just to suit our current political whimsy.  We need to whip out our Constitution and either frame it or burn it.

So are we or are we not a democracy?  If we truly are, my President, my lawmakers, my Supreme Court Justices and my people have to prove it to me immediately.

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One Response to “Democracy: Are We or Aren’t We?”

  1. Natalie R Says:

    Great blog!! Send it to the White House, the Congress and all others who can make the president and Congress see the light!

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