I woke up today to news of Libya. People are demonstrating in the streets of that country just as a few weeks ago they risked their lives on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Earlier people had laid their lives on the line to topple the government of Tunisia. In Bahrain and Yemen governments have unleashed the military or thugs (or both) on protesters. Doctors and nurses attempting to care for the injured have been assaulted for doing so. Libyan officials in other countries are resigning their positions. Members of the Libyan military have defected.
Everywhere people are demanding more rights and fighting to protect the rights they have.
Except, it seems, in the United States. In many other countries dictatorial governments are being opposed by protesters who are willing to put their lives on the line for sake of a better life for their fellow citizens. In the United States many citizens have stood by, grumbling perhaps but not really protesting, while their government has become more and more the protector of corporations, institutions and movements that are not friendly to interests of the average American.
The rights of women have been under attack in the United States for many years now. It matters little if a woman has the vote if she has no opportunity to vote someone who will represent her interests. The Republicans have seized upon the current economic conditions to find excuses to underfund and defund organizations and agencies that serve women. The Democrats seldom draw a line in the sand in response to such attempts.Women\’s rights are, apparently, always negotiable. Thus women\’s rights are by definition not rights at all but privileges since an inalienable right is not something that can be put up for compromise.
Republicans cannot get up and say \”we do not think women are really people\” and they cannot (yet) get up and say \”we don\’t think women should have the same rights as men.\” They can however strip legislative and fiscal support from every group that provides support for women. And the women cannot fight back even at the ballot box since the Democratic party will gladly take a woman\’s vote but will seldom support a woman where it might cost them the vote of a bigot or a sexist.
In an earlier post I wrote
If the powers that be wish to successfully to carve away at the rights of the public in general the best place to start is with the rights of women.
What seemed like an overstatement a short time ago now begins to look prescient for today when I woke up I saw that the governor of Wisconsin still plans to strip from citizens of his state their rights to collectively bargain. The governments of the United States do not fear the people in the streets. They do not worry about large numbers of protesters flooding the streets to protect their own rights. They worry little that a sufficient number Americans might take to the streets to support the rights of other Americans.
Democracy is struggling to be born in the streets of Egypt and Yeman and Tunisia and Bahrain and Libya.
Democratically elected representatives are negotiating away the rights of their constituents in the United States.
And this is the way American Democracy will end; not with a bang but a whimper.
4 thoughts on “Not with bang but a whimper”
Part of the problem is % of population. I haven't looked at the numbers, but I'd be willing to bet that the uprising in Wisconsin is fairly proportional to the uprisings in North Africa and the Mid East, on a country by country basis. Eventually, strikes in Wisconsin might shut down the state – it's happened before. There might be spill over into Michigan, which is also a big union state, or it used to be -maybe into Illinois. But if things go too far, the Army will get sent in, and the whole thing will probably be shut down before protesters get to Lafayette Square, or Times Square, or even the Haymarket, and that's where the protests need to be in order to have an effect. Although even that isn't guaranteed, because there have been general strikes in New York City, Milwaukee, Chicago, and elsewhere, all at the same time, and it didn't really change anything immediately. The US is too big , certainly to be rocked by protests, and possibly simply too big.That's depressing, and I don't think it's final. It is possible to use public movements to change policy in the US, but it takes a long time. Mind you, what we're seeing in North Africa and elsewhere is the culmination of years of work too – little protests that got shut down, bigger protests that got ignored, and so on. Talking, like this, is an important starting point. Feeling like you've got less to lose than to gain is key also.
All good points: the question then becomes what the heck do we do? Third parties have their own considerable (but not insurmountable) risks; creating a valid and effective one from scratch may work in the long term, but does little about the current crises. In the end, it seems to me like the best thing to do would be to take a page from the Tea Party playbook and create our own grassroots* groups to push for actual liberal government officials in local and state levels, in the hope that they'd eventually go national. Granted, it'd be considerably harder to do without significant funding, but I think the hardest parts–organizing into a coherent and consistent force and figuring out where and when it'd be most effective–are doable. Heck, I'm pretty sure interested Slacktivites could whip up a suitable platform in a week. * I apologize for implying that the Tea Parties are actually grassroots movements.
I don't have much in the way of hope to offer, but I recently read this article which seems to be as good a proposal as any I have read. This website was a google away. It lists a protest in my hometown. Well, an hour's walk over the bridge from my home town.No idea if anything will come of it. I've yet to be to a protest that changed the world, but apparently some have.
A friend pointed me at this, which is also depressing: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-labor-union-decline