Sunday, January 1, 2017

Continuing the growth of democracy in spite of setbacks

     The growth of democracy is a zig-zag through history.  As a young teenager, I saw the devastation spread by Senator Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. The country recovered with the help of a few courageous individuals. Please read:
     We are now at the beginning of a similar retreat from the values of democracy. The more we are passive observers, the longer the retreat will last, assuming we do in fact recover from it. As I stated in my book, How We Are Our Enemy--And How to Stop, "Democracy . . . is not something we delegate to a ruler or authority but is work that is up to each of us." Often this means resisting and confronting those in power, as the Vietnam anti-war movement did in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
     To keep a perspective and follow up from my previous letter and blog, I wrote the following letter published today, January 1, 2017, in The Boston Globe (in print, page K4, and online):

Democracy has grown from its infancy, but has far to go

HOPEFULLY, STEPHEN Kinzer’s obituary for democracy is premature (“The Enlightenment had a good run”).
Two hundred years ago, America was sustained by slaves. Married women were, in effect, the property of their husbands. Unmarried women usually fared worse.
One hundred years ago, women still did not have a constitutionally protected right to vote, a right that former slaves had but often were violently prevented from exercising. America’s apartheid, benignly called “Jim Crow,” was in full force throughout the nation. Black lives did not matter, and no one would have dared to proclaim otherwise.
Then we were living in a partial democracy in its infancy. Today, democracy has become an adolescent but not an adult. The lives of the poor and of those just above poverty do not matter, or matter too little. Many of them are rebelling with just cause, but in a desperate, self-defeating way, funded by others who will gain at their expense. There is a big problem to be solved.
Democracy is taking a pause but is not dead yet. We need to reflect on where it should go so that it can continue to grow. It will not grow until it eliminates the poverty that fails to treat everyone with the respect that all deserve.
John L. Hodge
Jamaica Plain