Democracy, at its most rudimentary level, as practised in the United States, is a very strange ideological animal. If it were a creature in the wild it would be more of the ilk of a chameleon than anything else. And because it is of such a nature it is not always easy to detect, to comprehend, nor, as a consequence, to apprehend. The nature of this beast all depends upon which political pundit one talks to.
Both in principle and practice its temperament is unstable, its treatment of people uneven, and its outcomes confusing. Those often render its intent suspect to those who reside both inside and outside of its borders. And yet, it is proclaimed as the best thing since sliced bread, and has been marketed as such around the world. Of all political philosophies it is to be emulated. But, is there some truth to it or has it been propaganda used as a camouflage for something which is completely different?
If one has any doubts about the concerns raised by this writer one only needs to ask Afro-Americans, Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latino-Americans, women, low-income families, Muslims, Jews and the LGBTQ community about its record in respect to the treatment that they have received within its social, political and economic milieu over the years. Their struggles and variant positions give rise to questions about both the practicality and the viability of democracy itself in its various forms across the world. Is it a “pipe dream”, another stylized attempt at Utopia?
Now, one cannot deny that there has been much progress provided to such minorities through its instrumentality — though after much pushing, shoving, screaming and even bloodshed — but their needs always came across as mere afterthoughts when they are compared to those of its citizens of European descent. However, this point does not have to be rehashed nor belaboured due to the preponderance of evidence to support the assertion of inequity and injustice in America. And so, what are we talking about? What, then, is the issue of concern in this humble article?
The US has made itself the prophet, the protector and the avenger of the so-called “freedoms” that it claims come with the type of democracy that it states, that it promotes and that it defends. The Korean War, which raged between 1950 and 1953, and the Vietnam War of 1955 to 1975 are cases in point. They were fought, it was said, against “Communist aggression” and the threat it posed to “freedom.” The decades-long embargo levied against Cuba for the same reasons and for human rights violations is yet another example.
The same country which, internally, is a fierce proponent of “states’ rights” and, externally, of its national sovereignty — even to the point of pulling out of international accords which would benefit itself and the international community — often found itself at the forefront of undermining and usurping the sovereignty of other nations all in the name of “democracy” and of its own “national security” concerns. Persuasion by intrigue and by intimidation — outside of delicate, “give-and-take” diplomacy and foreign aid — has been, in a very curious and funny way — its calling card.
The US values democracy in other countries — or so it says — only so long as the electorates in those nations vote in the way that it wants them to. And if they do not do so, then democracy as it exists there is denounced, then devalued and ignored. A very good example of this is when the Palestinian people had the temerity and the unmitigated gall to cast ballots which put Hamas in the seat of power in Gaza in January of 2006.
Hamas won a majority in the Palestinian Parliament, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. The choice of the Palestinians was denounced by the US Government, the champion of democracy, as a terrorist organization — a view that is not shared by all the nations of the world. Is democracy then — which was created to give voice to all different points of view — still democracy when it seeks to suppress or even subvert those ideas which are different from or are seen as alien to the value systems or world views of others?
Even when there is no threat of violence American democracy has been known to throw temper tantrums when it does not get its way. The unilateral revocation of the Iran Nuclear Deal made in 2015, under the Trump Administration, an agreement which was supported by its European allies, is a case in point. The US was not pleased when it could not get their support, to say the least.
But, such is the way of American democracy. One only needs to ask the insurrectionists who were present at the Capitol building in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021, the Klu Klux Klan and the late Confederate states. One also needs to ask the evangelical community who, having erroneously confused Christianity with it, believes that democracy means that everything in the US must reflect their religion, no matter what. Ah, me! Funny thing this American democracy.