A Fight for Democracy in an Autocratic World

“Secrecy is the keystone to all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy and censorship. When any government or church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man who has been hoodwinked in this fashion; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, whose mind is free. No, not the rack nor the atomic bomb, not anything. You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.” ― Robert A Heinlein

“Almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so.” ― Robert A. Heinlein

If you’d asked me ten years ago if I could imagine the end of democracy in the United States, I would have laughed at the very idea. We weren’t a perfect union, something the Founding Fathers envisioned when drafting the U.S. Constitution, but we were at the very least unified in our belief that we were making progress towards a better democracy. Or so I thought.

A decade of sipping increasingly toxic poison on extreme media sites has created an undercurrent of madness in the United States and other countries. The vast majority of people want the crazies to shut up and crawl back in their hole of misery, but they have a platform and momentum that is hard to deny. The only way to shut up a crazy person in power is to vote. The appropriate way to shut up a crazy person spewing divisive rhetoric or conspiracy theories is to leverage the legal system. There have been encouraging examples of each this year, but discouraging examples of crazies getting away with things too. Who’s to say what will happen next?

Well, we can. In the United States of America we have a mid-term election to choose who represents we the people in Congress and in the individual states. This is an opportunity to do the right thing and slam the door on the worst tendencies of humanity, or surrender to the whims of madmen and conspiracists. What a choice.

When you see a country like Ukraine, with everything they hold dear at stake, fighting for their freedom against an oppressive autocratic state, shouldn’t that serve as a reminder of what we ourselves fight for in our own country? It ought to be. And when we see a rise in violent acts applied against the political or cultural opposition, we ought to view that with horror and decisive corrective action too. We become what we amplify, and we become what we allow on our watch. We forget sometimes that we are the adults in the room.

This week we get to live history in the United States of America. We either repudiate the rising antithesis of democratic union, or we surrender to the turbulent winds of outrage and conspiracy. It doesn’t seem like a tough choice, really. But here we are. Could the adults in the room kindly control the children?

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