2 O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
and you will not listen?
Or cry to you ‘Violence!’
and you will not save?
3 Why do you make me see wrongdoing
and look at trouble?
Destruction and violence are before me;
strife and contention arise.
This Presidential election is the nastiest ever, fed by an enormous increase in dark money since the Citizens United Supreme Court decision opened the floodgates, aided and abetted by the extreme rhetoric and manipulations of politicians and pundits having no regard for the truth or our democratic process, and reaching new lows in the level of public discourse.
I certainly understand why people want “change”—anything but the status quo. But my favorite candidate was bulldozed by the process months ago as were some of yours, regardless of your preferences, and the only two viable candidates standing are not who many of us wanted. While disappointed with the “choice,” that remaining decision never has been clearer, but it won’t lead to the government I wanted.
Our democracy, such as it was, is greatly diminished from ten to twenty years ago, especially since the Supreme Court announced in 2009 that corporations are “people” with protected Constitutional rights (albeit, with far greater resources than real people). I don’t think it’s a radical idea to expect a government and elections to function the way they said it would in my 7th grade Civics class. Without a true democratic process, or at least some semblance capable of synthesizing popular will into policy, we devolve into frustrated, fighting constituencies motivated by transparent propaganda. But are you, are we, committed to democracy, or do we only pay lip service when it serves our interests? Very real, targeted voter suppression measures are, by definition, anti-democratic and betray that some among us prefer a different form of government or see no problem with thwarting popular governance. Never mind that it makes it much easier for the few to control public policy.
Of even greater concern is the thriving of extreme right-wing, armed, and even violent groups in recent years, such as so-called “patriot” and self-appointed armed “militia” groups, espousing white supremacy and hatred of minorities, such as Mexicans, Muslims, Blacks, Asians, most immigrants, and, yes, Jews. Domestic terrorism is real and growing and presents a major threat to our democracy. For a couple of decades, but especially for the past eight years this growth has been actively promoted and encouraged by various alleged “news” outlets, opportunistic politicians, organizations and pundits who stand to gain from stirring up anger and blaming the less powerful for problems they didn’t cause. In just the past week, three men of the patriot/sovereign citizen persuasion were arrested for plotting to blow up a housing unit populated by immigrants. Another individual taking advantage of “open carry” laws promoted by the NRA (which used to promote gun safety) stood for twelve hours in front of a campaign headquarters of a local candidate, staring inside at volunteers and making clear he was well armed—an obvious intimidation effort, at best. And we have candidates and even a governor who have made suggestions that armed conflict might be “necessary” if a certain person wins the Presidential election next month and called on supporters to “police” polling locations.
Whether you like an election outcome or not, it is clear that these folks have no commitment whatsoever to a democratic form of government, the values and system our country is supposed to stand for. They want it their way or no way. Ironically, those who identify as the Tea Party want something entirely different from what our Constitution calls for.
If as people of faith we trust in democracy, equality, a Constitutional republic, and freedom, we must soundly reject this aggressive posture, must speak out against anyone approaching their disappointment in this manner and seeking to impose their will by force on the population if they don’t get their way. While there is still a middle ground, a fair process must be promoted and preserved. The legitimacy of government and avoiding a coup or second civil war might well depend on it.
I have substantial concern that some will act on their violent fantasies and try to impose their will on us by force. For one thing, these groups exist and have already flexed their muscles in various ways. And some have told them if Hillary wins the election it would mean it was “stolen” and suggested the government might then need to be overthrown.
Certainly, many “survivalists” and white supremacists have soaked up all this propaganda and prepared for this. And people in influential places have encouraged their misguided beliefs and helped them rationalize what might become their violent actions. This kind of rhetoric and armed groups existing outside government has its parallels in the 1930s in other parts of the world and in our country leading up to and during our Civil War. How does this ever happen? Exactly this way.
But it might not be too late. Those who share my concerns may join me in raising them and speak out for democracy and justice.
1 I will stand at my watch-post,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
2 Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
Despite all the acrimony, it’s possible that we will survive this and real accomplishments after the election will begin to address problems long ignored by an impotent and dysfunctional Congress and start to heal our divisions. Maybe.
But a nation, a community, to function MUST find a way to heal, to discover common ground, to move forward. And in our community we must do the same. We have much more in common than our disagreements suggest, if we will just return to and focus on what are our espoused social values and shared beliefs, and aim for a dose of sanity.