“What IS Democracy?”
“It has something to do with young men killing each other, I believe.”
- Johnny Got His Gun (1971)
The events of January 2021, where a gathering stormed the Capitol to contest the results of an election they considered rigged, demonstrate many things. Talking points on both sides seem to be either defending or condemning the action. However, these arguments seem to be based solely on ideological lines without concern for either democracy or freedom’s underlying principles. The United States prides itself as a bastion of freedom and democracy, but these tenets seem to have lost their meaning in the modern age. Polarization has made it less likely for those on one side of the political spectrum to appreciate what’s happening on the other side. To guarantee an audience to their advertisers, media have pushed what seems like an immovable wedge between competing political factions for monetary gain. The victims of this issue are two of American society’s foundational tenets, freedom and democracy.
What IS Democracy?
UNESCO contends that democracy is the free choice of government, not the widespread pursuit of popular policies. Democracy as an ideal has been around for hundreds of years. Humanity can thank the Greeks for coming up with the idea of democracy, but their version was quite different from what we have today. Greek democracy relied on the direct participation of the individual in passing and ratifying laws. National Geographic tells us that the Greeks also didn’t offer universal suffrage either, with only free men being able to vote and women, children, and slaves being considered property, not citizens in their own right.
Today’s democracy, as we see it around the world, is distinctly different. Most countries that have democracy don’t have direct representation but rely on a representative rule. An area would elect a representative that would take their concerns to the central government and work on behalf of their constituency to get laws passed that helped the individuals within that region. Or at least, that’s the idea. Sadly, like most things dealing with the government, the ideas rarely realize into something tangible. Once elected, representatives seem to fall…