Since Donald Trump’s victory in the most bizarre US presidential election in memory, pundits, Rightists, “democrats” and even Barack Obama himself have called upon people to support ideas and results that go against their own feelings, ethics, and desires. This, apparently, is what “Democracy” is all about. Ironically, it is the Right now that is lecturing us the need to obey the “will of the people while simultaneously characterizing protesters and dissenters as anti-democratic “goons and thugs.” One is reminded of- Camus’ thought that “through a curious transposition peculiar to our times, it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself.” Fighting on the ramparts for the fabric of decency that could characterize America is un-democratic, un-American and needs to be stamped out-ruthlessly- so we are told. Stamping out dissent is about democracy- another curious transposition.
This is confusing. It’s confusing not because one is surprised; not even because one is disgusted, terrified, pained, or insulted. It’s confusing because if indeed we are to support ideas and results that don’t align with our desires, then shouldn’t be immediately-more so for those who support Trump and his cadre of conservatives- accept and even embrace dissent? Isn’t that the clarion call broadcast from the newly festooned megaphones in the Sportsplatz? The confusion comes from the fundamental inconsistency of at once extoling the will of the people and then clamping down on people for expressing this will. And that is the devastating part of this unexpected victory and the one that will keep decent people on their toes for the next phase of American history.
We have seen this before. We have seen those who espouse “family values” delight at the destruction of families. We have seen those who believe in “democracy” hand wealth and power to a decreasing number of elites. We have seen those who believe in “law” undermine the judiciary and incarcerate African-Americans at alarming rates.
Principled people- red, blue, other- have to be able to cut through this doublespeak. They cannot at once celebrate democracy while crowning an autocrat. They cannot succeed in making America Great if the very fabric of this pluralistic society is torn asunder, if race-baiting becomes the norm, if women are forced to cower in fear, and if a homogeneous group of like-minded power brokers are to lead the country in what everyone suggests is one of the most crucial and complex times in world history.
What was seemingly a farce a year ago has become a tragedy. It can be a long one or a short one depending on how and how fast we all react.
MLK reminded us poignantly that we can’t wait. In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, written in 1963, he asks that we don’t put a timetable on another’s freedom. The tile of his book, Why We Can’t Wait, says it all.
If you love democracy, I mean really love democracy, then red, blue, or any other color, make sure you work to protect it. If innocence, decency, and democratic expression are openly vilified – and if we go along with it- then, alas, game-over.
Daag Ujjala is a freelance writer.