The election is over. At least for a while we don’t have to be bombarded with plans and ideas from political candidates trying to better our future. They make promises to help decrease traffic jams on Interstate 270 or reduce unemployment throughout the country.
In order to convince we the voters, the politicians, besides looking at us from our television sets, they also meet us on our way to the supermarket, Home Depot or at McDonald’s. With a thick skin, they digest our criticisms that often borders on verbal abuse. They also tolerate our angry outburst and jeering. Yet, they don’t give up. Sometimes they get a cheerful reception that makes their day. Politicians want votes. They are willing to do anything for that.
At the time of the election, ordinary citizens become all-powerful. They collectively exercise the power to make or break an idea or policy. A politician may have wonderful ideas like catching water from the moon or digging oil from the Antarctic. But without citizens’ collective consent, the ideas become dead.
When different people with different ideas approach constituents for the same purpose of winning votes, conflict becomes a general byproduct. How well the citizenry manages the conflict shows its level of civility and its commitment to the process. For a democracy, the election is like a cleanser. This process of cleansing in the U.S. is carried out by an army of volunteers who toil for long hours at polling places to see that the voting is conducted smoothly and the counting is done without a hitch. The citizens, through their ballots, give direction to the nation. Either they continue the path by keeping the people in power or choose to show them the door by bringing in others. They also mix and match the old with the new. On the whole, they prove that democracy may look messy and may have many faults, but it is the only way ordinary people can do extraordinary things.
Democracy requires debates and a majority consent to implement anything. It also takes time to resolve issues demanding patience and understanding. In many other places, strong men have taken over power so that they can expedite the process of decision making. These power grabbers are usually military men or civilian leaders supported by the military. They expect their citizens to obey them without questioning.
Democracy is a word that everyone likes. Therefore, these leaders call their form of ruling a democracy. And in the name of it, they continue to impose their will on the people. As the authoritarian rule becomes entrenched, those who run it become bold and begin to think that their interest is the interest of the state. Naked exploitation of ordinary people and the use of public funds for personal gain become widely prevalent. All of this eventually ends up in a massive explosion of people’s anger leading to a blood bath. This time another form of democracy, a real democracy, arrives.
The United States has remained a proponent of democracy around the world. Over the years, more and more countries and their people have come to realize that democracy and development are not mutually exclusive. Now, many of them are trying to develop in a democratic way, and they need help from the U.S.
President Trump has nixed assistance to many such countries. But the action has not helped the U.S. Rather it has raised the misery index in different parts of the world. No matter how much it tries, the U.S. cannot remain unaffected by other people’s misery and desperation. The world is interconnected, and we are a part of it. Over many years, China built its wall to protect itself. The age of the airplane shattered the myth. In the same way, the president wasted the nation’s wealth and energy on a wall on the southern border so that people would be stopped from entering. If the Berlin Wall could not survive, then how can this?
Anadi Naik writes from Frederick. His latest book “Blown Away” is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.