Letter: America, imploding from within

Posted 5/6/22

To the editor:

Ka-Boom!  Could our democratic society implode from internal causes?  Tragically, this is becoming thinkable and even likely.  Many Americans seem clueless or …

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Letter: America, imploding from within

Posted

To the editor:

Ka-Boom!  Could our democratic society implode from internal causes?  Tragically, this is becoming thinkable and even likely.  Many Americans seem clueless or uncaring about the essentials of democracy and about the toxicity of authoritarianism.  We hear over and over that America is a nation of laws, not of men. This idea is as simple as it is important. In our democracy we abide by our constitution and enact laws to protect people from rogue acts of kings or dictators, the very men who ALWAYS arbitrarily punish their detractors and enrich their families and friends. Think Putin and Putin-wanna-be, Trump.

This idea of a nation of laws, however, depends on common facts, the consent of the governed, the patience of the electorate, and the sanctity of voting.  Whenever these pillars are missing, faith in our institutions suffer and authoritarians can arise.

Nowadays we clearly see that a huge proportion of the adult population has doubts about voting outcomes, is selective about scientific facts, views some public health measures as threats to liberty, considers uncomfortable educational content off limits, and is O.K. with jury nullifications.  These are strong, ordinary Americans.

[To be sure, voting outcomes can be disappointing, new scientific discoveries sometimes change facts, some government public health mandates are confusing, public education, intended to develop discerning and creative thinkers, is hard, and a jury of one’s peers can, of course, include people who don’t like particular laws.]

Add to all of this doubt our confusing and unfair tax laws and the harms we suffer from a poorly regulated “free market” economy whose “entrepreneurs” seem almost eager to disband our industrial/manufacturing base.  It should no surprise, then, that so many ordinary Americans feel left out, are angry, and are fearful of the future.  Who are the likely winners?  Beyond the super rich, the winners are the craven political “leaders” who work to polarize and weaken our society.  They prey on our fears, using every possible tool, including voter suppression, savage lies and conspiracy theories on social media, and domestic and foreign disinformation to gain and retain power.

Will they use their power to create good jobs, improve education, expand health care, fight climate change, protect the environment, invest in infrastructure?  Of course not.  They will use power to block human progress and combat any and all initiatives that threaten the very wealthy, the large corporations, and the well-connected.  Those “leaders” are autocrats-in-training, and they are making real gains.

At some point those autocratic leaders with authoritarian leanings will occupy enough House and Senate seats — and pack the Supreme Court — to shred the Bill of Rights, making a mockery of our democracy and all the protections it affords us. Without doubt, our democratic system can implode from within under a scheme where winners take all, the rule of law is a fantasy, and minority rights are abandoned.  The great irony, of course, is that the very people on the far right who shout loudest about individual liberty in support of these anti-democratic leaders will lose all their liberties in an authoritarian America. How do you think that will play out? Consider this haunting question:

Just how many vile lies and conspiracy theories pushed by American autocrats can we endure before our civil life turns to civil strife, here in America, where guns seem far more plentiful than the cries of ordinary Americans for neighborliness, for fairness, and for justice?

Will Newman

Tiverton

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.