August 28th, 2018
Thinking for Ourselves
Democracy is not Static
Trump’s defense is crumbling. Criminal charges of corruption are moving closer and closer to the White House. The President is now referred to as a Mafia Boss, described as waging war on the rule of law. As guilty verdicts and plea bargains proliferate, more and more people are focusing attention on Republicans in Congress, asking how it is possible for them to remain silent in the face of mounting evidence of corruption, immorality, and greed. Most Republicans cannot find their way to denouncing Trump’s behaviors.
Paul Krugman, wrote in the New York Times that the real news of the week is “the absence of any meaningful pushback from Congressional Republicans. Indeed, not only are they acquiescing in Trump’s corruption, his incitements to violence, and his abuse of power, up to and including using the power of office to punish critics, they’re increasingly vocal in cheering him on.” Krugman warns that this “spineless” and “sinister” behavior is likely to get worse if Republicans retain their hold on congress in the coming election. He concluded, “I don’t think most political commentators have grasped how deep the rot goes. I don’t think they understand, or at any rate admit to themselves, that democracy really could die just a few months from now.”
Democracy is in trouble and Trump and his supporters have weakened the institutions we have long associated with its practice. But there is a deeper consideration here. Democracy is not static. It is not a single, solid entity. It is more than voting every few years. At its best, it is an aspiration, imperfectly grasped, made real by the political forces of any given moment. In reality, the US has never had a full democratic practice. Rather, the history of the last two hundred and fifty years has been the history of people struggling to expand the narrow confines of a controlled, representative process, that has only rarely represented the interests of the people over those of corporate power.
At the heart of the democratic impulse is the desire to not only shape the decisions that affect our personal lives, but to take responsibility for the direction of our country. This impulse was nurtured in this land, long before the American Revolution. Many Indigenous people practiced a radical, participatory democracy, where decisions were made in council circles as people talked, listened, and thought together. Elders, especially women, were looked to for wisdom and guidance. Under the influence of these practices, settler colonists established town meetings and public conversations to determine policies and actions. Long before the first American Revolution, direct democratic process evolved. Many of these ideas were codified in the Declaration of Independence and put into practice in the Articles of Confederation. But both these documents also enshrined the idea that only some people, mostly white, male, and wealthy, could be trusted with decision making power. Many historians argue that the Constitution and all its compromises were more about limiting democracy than encouraging freedom. From the very beginning, Native peoples, African Americans, women and immigrants have had to fight to become included in the most elemental practices of democracy.
Today it is clear that this compromised idea of Democracy is as corrupt as Trump. We now face the responsibilities of finding new ways to influence the course of our lives together. Democracy is something we have yet to create in this land. But make no mistake, it is emerging everywhere. Trump just underscores the urgency of our collective need to establish new principles and practices that will allow us to form more perfect ways of living.
An exciting, fascinating fact-filled tribute to faces and places of Detroit’s Jazz Legacy. Visiting clubs where Chick Corea and John Coltrane played. See the high school where Alice Coltrane, Ron Carter, and Donald Byrd learned their craft. Miles stayed in the “heavy city” perfecting his cool.
Kim Sherobbi is a native “Detroiter” who lives in the same house she grew up in. She is on the Board of Directors of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center, a SWF partner organization in Detroit that aims to help grassroots activists develop into visionary leaders. Her relationship with Sweet Water Foundation began in 2011 and has been growing ever since.
Sweet Water Foundation’s relationship with Kim is one of many that demonstrate the intersection and similarities between people and communities across the nation. We are excited to highlight Kim’s work as we collectively work towards tackling this country’s most pressing systemic problems. Read on to learn more about Kim.