The Light of Democracy is Flickering this Independence Day

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I am uneasy about how to celebrate our country this Independence Day. The 4th of July is supposed to be a time when we Americans give thanks for our freedoms, our democracy, and welcome the world to our shores. We put aside our differences, whether it be religion, country of origin, political beliefs, or backgrounds. We join hands and recognize the incredible gift we have been given – a country based on an idea, not ethnicity, religion, or demands of a ruler. Anybody who believes in one simple idea can be American. This is what July 4 is supposed to be.

I have believed in this American Faith my whole life. I devoted my college study to it, taught my kids about it, revered it. And now I am trying not to be heart-broken as I see leaders do everything they can to destroy that American Faith, leaders who literally took an oath to protect and defend it. We don’t take an oath to a person or ideology. We pledge our all for an idea that has been the light and last hope for the world. While we are one of the youngest countries in the world, we are the oldest democracy. And as we prepare for Independence Day, the light of democracy is flickering. We cannot let it go out.

The populist strain of fascism that has overtaken much of the Republican Party is not new. We have been fighting it here and abroad for 60 years. The playbook is always the same – accuse others of crimes that you yourself are committing. Make false claims about a stolen election even as you try to steal an election. (Putin invades Ukraine and claims that nation is a threat to Russia: It is always the same.)

But there is a new conflict that is even more disturbing: The attempt of some to drag us backward and halt progress, modernity, and science. To the populist fascist, modernity is a threat because it is controlled by big corporate interests with an insatiable thirst to control the common man. And while the same theme exists on the Populist Left, it has so far not translated into the kind of organized violence we saw on January 6.

The idea of fair play is perhaps the most important piece of the American idea of democracy. As someone who has lost an election (2009 for Seattle City Council), I know how it stings. You get the call from your consultant at your “victory party” that it is over. Time to concede. So you make your announcement and call the victor to pledge your help if they are elected. That is the way it is supposed to work. And for over 240 years is has. That is supposed to be part of what we celebrate tomorrow.

The 4th of July is also a time to celebrate the three branches of government — the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. And let’s not forget the Fourth Estate, a free and independent press. Unfortunately, all of these institutions suffer from a lack of faith from the public. Overturning Roe v. Wade has created anger, sadness, and chaos. And while there are many who genuinely believe it was the right decision, the chaos and fear it has injected into our world cannot be overstated. And like most things, the poor will suffer the most.

So what do we celebrate on July 4? Who will stand up and lead us to defend our American Faith? Who will inspire us to stand up to bullies who don’t believe in fair play and will do anything to hold on to power? This past week a 26-year-old woman stood up to the bullies. I can only imagine the kinds of threats she now endures. Who will stand up for her? She is near my oldest daughter’s age. It enrages me that she is the one that has to protect us.

Where are the Senators and Congressfolk who took that solemn oath? If they will not stand with her against the bullies and enemies of democracy, they should leave office. They are no longer Americans. For America is an idea, and their inaction and cowardice are destroying it. We should not let them get away with this.

Alas, this is what I will be thinking about on Independence Day. Damn the fireworks, I say, and protect the idea of our true American Faith.

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A former City Hall staffer, Jordan Royer is vice president for external affairs at the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I can think of three women who have and will continue to stand up to bullies:
    Hillary Clinton, Liz Cheney and Stacey Abrams.

  2. I recommend an article “After Babel: Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid”, Jonathan Haidt, The Atlantic.

    If you’re interested in what democracy is up against in modern society. The past 10 years in question have seen great changes in how information flows through society – social media. We know it’s an issue, Haidt lays out how. What started as a way to connect with friends and relatives, has become a way to spread toxic lies to strangers. I don’t even have an instagram account, so it would be easy to sell me this story about social media I don’t know very well, but the whole thing rings very true.

    Maybe it can be turned around, and start to make us smarter, as information ought to, and there are some suggestions at the end that might at least limit the harm. But at the moment it’s the equivalent of a disease in our society, with a very poor prognosis. An inherent weakness of democracy is that we can’t really expect our elected representatives to save us from ourselves.

  3. For the contemporary Left, ‘our democracy’ is synonymous with ‘our progressive movement’ and every time their agenda hits a snag, Leftists fret and then cry “foul”!

    There is, apparently, no middle ground in Mr. Royer’s world, either submit to his/their world view or be subjected to his angry scorn. And, seriously, “accuse others of crimes that you yourself are committing” is the modus operandi of the Progressive-Left.

    ‘American Faith,’ what is that (anyway) and why, in your opinion, should it be allowed to supplant American Values?

    • Americans’ faith in America. Its elected leaders, its public health institutions, its legal system, its schools and universities, its elections.

      Yes, there’s no middle ground when it comes to people spreading lies to intentionally damage our trust, in our country and its institutions. Who would do that?

  4. “progress, modernity, and science” — This is an odd list of positives to defend.

    “Progress” is often (or even usually) associated with “economic growth,” a major cause of our current problems. Our society’s addiction to growth (“progress”) is so baked in to our culture and political economy that it’s become invisible and thus difficult to organize against or challenge.

    “Modernity” is a complex topic. The “populist fascist” calling modernity “a threat because it is controlled by big corporate interests” is accurate. Modernity is a lineal ancestor of neoliberalism, a political economy that is driven by and for the wealthy, pushing for ever more inequity and growth. AKA late stage capitalism.

    “Science” too is complex, and it is often used to support the dominant paradigm. Fortunately, there are still many scientists who do “follow the science” where it leads, rather than the money of corporations. Thus scientists like M. King Hubbert, Al Bartlett, H.W. Odum, C.S. Hall, and many others have taught about the problems with failing to acknowledge that growth has limits.

    I also find “Faith” to be an odd touchstone for our desire to retain our democracy. I don’t need faith in anything to want to stop fascism. My values are simply to be anti-fascist (i.e., democratic); to me that is the most humane way of being in the world. It doesn’t have much to do with faith.

    • I took “faith” to be a realistic optimism grounded in experience. Not the “faith” of religious purposes. I wonder if you could get past your objections to those terms, and in the context of current events, take a guess at what he’s talking about? Have you had days when you’re more optimistic that the American process can lead in a direction you’d call “progress”? Does it seems like the direction we’ve been generally going influenced by the Enlightenment (“modernity”) might be suffering a reverse? When the science that’s telling us we can’t get away with every exploitation of the environment, or that we may need to pitch in occasionally for the sake of public health, is headed for the populist bonfire?

      • Yes, I can get past my objections to some extent. However, assuming “progress” as “growth” is necessary and good, I cannot. The myth of endless progress (“growth”) is a major flaw in the current neoliberal capitalist economy that has (apparently) resulted from the Enlightenment. If not “resulted,” what else caused us to be where we are, with an overshoot population based on fossil fuels.

        If we can change “progress” to mean “increasing equity and less imperialism” I’m for it. Unfortunately, modernist “progress” seems to have a strong element of imperialism embedded in it.* I recommend James C. Scott’s “Seeing Like a State,” Zygmunt Bauman’s “Wasted Lives,” or “Imperial Eye’s” by May Louise Pratt. There’s a large body of work deconstructing how abusive relationships are embedded in our political economy.

        *Imperialism includes not only colonialism but also systemic racism and misogyny, and physical, economic, and cultural displacement of communities resulting from grotesque economic inequity.

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