December 23, 2016

This is What we all Need to Understand about American Democracy.

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“This is no longer amusing.” I say to myself as I watch a pickup truck pass, proudly flying a Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” flag.

I note that I have seen many Confederate flags flown in this manner.

Same manner, different banner.

I’ve lived in the Heartland my whole life. I see hard-working, patriotic Americans with an idealistic and insular view of our country’s greatness. I see blind faith in a system driven by greed and gluttony alone, servicing corporations and an elite that worship the dollar, providing (some) jobs for (some) citizens that (all) do the same.

All I see is nostalgia for a way of life that is long gone—and blissful avoidance of facts.

And fear. Lots of fear.

When it comes to passionate ignorance of policy, blind bigotry and contradicting viewpoints, I’ve seen it all.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Early in childhood, we Americans are conditioned to think about our country in a certain way. We have biases and sometimes very narrow text books teaching children about the United States and the pinnacles of world achievement: Democracy and Capitalism. We learn of the dreaded –isms such as Communism and Socialism.

We are taught that we are the Alpha and Omega. That we have figured all of this out.

We do have the world’s largest military, spread out all over the globe at all times. We have a monumental achievement of democracy, “by the people for the people,” showing itself to be a plutocracy serving an elite that stands behind the U.S. military. We have trillions in good faith loans.

We have a population that loves their country and holds good old-fashioned American values, but shows itself complacent in political action. I believe this mindset is spread out across America—not isolated to small towns.

They believe in America. They believe in us.

But we have all been taught that “America” is tied to a rigid set of traditions that supports a corporate, greed-driven, military-industrial complex.

I’ve grown accustomed to contradiction, growing up in a rural community. There is a strong sense of pride in hard work, in living for God, family and country, and in fierce independence. These communities run from the word “Socialism,” while cashing social security checks and relying on entities controlled by the state such as schools and fire and police departments. Most of these “autonomous” citizens are supported in one way or another by the U.S. Government.

In most rural areas such as mine—rather low or high middle class—most people have their basic necessities met and then some. “Then some” is a gross understatement, given outrageous American excess. At times our consumption of goods and resources is ludicrous.

Consumers of entertainment also vote in elections. So what happens when consumers vote on elected officials who were reality TV stars?

Kanye West 2020?

This way of life clearly spreads out all over America. It’s ingrained by family and conditioned by environment. It’s a mentality and ideology. It goes far beyond being a small town, God-fearing, red-blooded American. It goes beyond religious fanaticism, conservative views or simple romanticism of the American Dream.

Now, when it all goes awry, we have proud consumers, citizens and neighbors, left to toil, worry and wonder. Plants closing down, gas prices (sometimes) soaring, existing plants cutting work forces, commodities and necessities climbing to unspeakable prices while wages barely creep upward—all while we try to keep up with the Joneses. A nation of debt, in debt, living lavishly.

Yet so proud in their struggle, they defend the very system that enslaves them.

The middle classes think, “This is America. if the politicians keep and create jobs in America, stop giving away our tax dollars, cut the deficit, support the working class…a broken system can mend itself.”

Average people have always voted for leaders who push special interests and corporate greed, but we have that personified now. Donald Trump is corporate America—and not even a good example at that.

He played every racist, xenophobic bone in the body of this country, and it was horrifying to watch.

He played people like a xylophone of human emotion in the key of discontent, promoting violence to his supporters.

I know Hitler was a fierce political opponent, but I’m not sure if he turned his political rally into a sh*t show, something like an elementary school playground full of adults ready to fight because the Mexicans and Muslims may have taken their candy.

Adolf Hitler ran much like Trump, promising economic growth, promising to make the country great again. He was openly authoritarian, presenting the enemy as the cause for all of our difficulties. Hitler was a crazy, anti-semitic, murderer, but he at least knew how to conduct himself in public. Trump doesn’t even have manners.

Sir McTweets-a-lot is about to control the strongest military the world has ever known. I will give him a fair chance; like it or not, this man is our President Elect.

Now you see why I had to lead in with a paradox that has astonished me my entire life: people all around me, whom I know and love, voting against their own interests time and time again.

This is not the end. This is the beginning.

When questioned about the popularity of his ideas during the Democratic primaries, Senator Bernie Sanders said that he could not do anything himself, that he would need the people behind him.

Bernie didn’t get elected but “we” are still here.

Through political activism and getting involved in our community and country, we can make change.

When appropriate, we can use petitions or nonviolent protest. We cannot be ignored. The most important role in Democracy truly is that of the citizen.

Now it is important that you go find what moves and inspires you. Find what you love doing and put it out into the world.

Not only because you will gain personal satisfaction, but because it will be of benefit.

More than ever, the world needs mindful, passionate human beings putting their light into the world.

Most of all, love each other. We are in this together. I could go on forever about how beautiful all of you are—how all of the people around me voting against their own interests are beautiful humans also—or how every Trump voter is a frightened little miracle just like you, but time is limited.

So go, now, love one another.


Author: Cory Terrell

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Editor: Toby Israel


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