Inauguration Day 2017 will be a day of remembrance for future generations because something has died and none of us is sure what should take its place. We have been watching the steady decline of democracy since before Obama, but were not quite sure where to stand. If you were not directly affected by the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 you probably did not have much to criticize other than what flashed across the news surrounding Zuccotti Park in September 2011. Maybe you went to the first Occupy demonstrations or suffered through financial and political frustrations as the nation watched its first large-scale blossom of activism since protests against the Iraq war began in February 2003. Occupy was the first thing that felt immediately political for a generation of new activists who solidified their identities with the rally cry, “This is What Democracy Looks Like!”
Image: Wasington DC on January 20th; “This is what democracy looks like!”
Originally published by Anarchist News – Written by Alysen Wade
Many of us were spurred into jobs of public service or enrolled in graduate programs to teach and write about the civic good. But somewhere along the way we lost the fight. Like all initially blazing social movements, Occupy died down when we sort of agreed that while important it was not the perfect fit. Soon there became less and less space or ostensible relevancy to criticize what was happening to democracy as our national debts and bank accounts rose at often massively disproportionate rates. Then Trump was elected and there is real reason and urgency to return to the streets with the same rally cry. Only this time it feels a bit different because somewhere inside we must admit that our political system is irrevocably broken and we are in desperate need of something else.
Democracy is a social construct that was invented by ingenious humans. They were able to develop a consistent food supply and generated income that they then needed to protect. They elected the best among them to defend their money, values, and land. These leaders also happened to be mostly rich and white and male. So they continued to write laws for and elect more people that generally looked and behaved like them, shutting others out who could not access the proper channels of participation by design. This concept was a useful way to govern an ever-increasing populace albeit messy and complicated at times. This system worked especially well for a culture that was skilled at improving upon its defenses, technology, and communication tools at a rapid pace.
The problem is, we have come to a point in society where we no longer have the option of electing leaders that understand let alone share the burdens, ethics, or interests of the lowliest among us. In many ways, these elected officials and their electorates cannot even comprehend or empathize with the immense disparities that exist with regard to equal access to livable wages, education, and basic human rights. It means that in order for such a system to prevail we must have all had a hand in keeping it alive by contributing ideologically and monetarily (e.g. taxes, voting, etc.).
Before taking to social media using language such as “you didn’t vote, you don’t get complain,” take a moment to consider that many in our modern political and economic climate no longer have the desire or very means to fight in favor of the restoration of democracy. Their political participation sometimes takes the form of silence or apathy—both of which can be necessary forms of resistance if we consider the personal being political in the most basic sense. Think of the monk who takes a vow of silence; or the single mother whose daily energy is spent on survival, not electing a president who never came close to espousing her views on either side.
For many the fight is for freedom, not democracy. These two things have never been one in the same. So when protestors from the recent marches shout, “this is what democracy looks like,” it is true—this is what a corrupt political system called democracy looks like. This is the democracy-turned-kleptocracy, a patriarchal racist institution of oppression that has allowed the worst possible and most dangerously out-of-touch candidate to win.
These coming demonstrations should be hopeful, and I am glad that so many are finding inspiration to speak out. It reminds me that political consciousness occurs on a continuum and that we are at different points on the spectrum of becoming socially aware.
However, we must dispel the hope for democracy. It should not be restored. It has come to its logical conclusion and must be replaced. What has sustained us has utterly failed us. We must be brave enough to admit this and work toward real change. Otherwise, not only will democracy have died during this inauguration process, but it will have taken our humanity with it.
Alysen wade holds a MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from the University of Georgia with a minor in Women’s Studies. She was the recipient of the James C. McCroskey & Virginia P. Richmond Undergraduate Scholars Conference award in 2013 with a paper titled, “Commoditizing Occupy Wall Street: Co-optation of a Subculture Social Movement.” She has won several college journalism awards including Best News Feature for the Indiana Collegiate Press Association with a piece called, “Green Ribbon Commission: The Not-so Green Fruits of Our Resolution.” She now works as a freelance writer and also keeps a blog about cemeteries and death. Her work can be found at www.diggirl.org.