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Whither democracy in America? Part 1
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui
2008-03-23 10:37:41
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America goes to the poll in November of this year to elect its president. While in recent weeks the list of candidates from the two major political parties has narrowed down significantly it is not yet clear as to which party will eventually capture the citadel of power. One thing is, however, clear: for the first time in the last half a century a senator (and not a governor) will head for the White House.

Notwithstanding all the excitement generated by the coming election, one should not lose thought of the bigger reality that there is a deep disquieting deterioration of democratic powers in America today.

In 1980 the right-wing coalition of Christian Conservatives (whom Professor Cornel West of Princeton University calls the Constantinian Christians) and Jewish neoconservatives (the modern-day Judean High Priests) helped to elect Ronald Reagan. The fact that 35 percent of the most liberal group – American Jews – voted for Reagan was a discerning moment in American history forewarning what was to expect later. When the Bible-thumping Christian fundamentalist reverend Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority received the Jabotinsky Award in 1981 in Israel, it should have been a sufficient eye-opener to realize that "imperial" Constantinian (and not "prophetic") Christianity had arrived on the international stage, albeit with Jewish neocons as their powerful allies.

In the following decades with targeted campaigns to unseat daring voices - Paul Findley, Earl Hillard and Cynthia McKinney, we also witnessed how improbable it had become for anyone to win either a congressional or a senatorial race when the "alliance" (with all its powerful lobby groups like the AIPAC and CUFI, and media outlets like the Fox News and TV) is opposed to that candidate. With George W. Bush's repeat wins in 2000 and 2004 the hideous face of that unholy alliance is visible for all to see. Over the last eight years, the more we looked at that imperial face the uglier and demonic it looked; the more we heard its haughty, blasphemous Pharaohnic utterances the scarier we got of a coming Armageddon; and the more we saw its Hamanic displays against unarmed civilians – home and abroad - the more we got convinced of its evil nature.

The problem with this resurgent imperial democracy is that it breeds nihilism at all strata of the American society – from a desperate housewife to a debauch president, from an unemployed worker to a greedy corporate tycoon, from poverty-stricken inner cities to wealthy Beverly Hills, from chartered schools in Philadelphia to Columbine School in Missouri, from a co-ed residence hall in Virginia Tech to a lecture hall in Northern Illinois University, from streets in Harlem to corporate headquarters in Manhattan, from Enron to Halliburton, from penthouse to fortified Pentagon and majestic White House. It values power over logic and follows the paranoia: "my way or highway" and "you are either with us or against us". Not surprisingly, it incites gangterism from street corners in inner cities to corporate boardrooms to the WTO.

The most frightening feature of this deadening nihilism at the state level is that it breeds 'noble' lies – from Johnson's Gulf of Tonkin to Bush's WMDs - that demand blood – tons and tons of it - to appease the nihilist Dracula (sitting in the Oval Office). Fashioned out of Texan cowboy mentality, it prefers settling conflict via show of force and employs "spare-no-enemies" tactics, i.e., aggression over negotiation, unilateralism over multilateralism. In that process, it totally disregards human lives – their pains and sufferings, as we have witnessed time and again from the killing fields in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the Occupied Palestine to the gruesome prison camps in the Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Naively, it forgets that its very gangsterism invites terrorism at home that it claims to be fighting in a never-ending vicious war.

In political nihilism, there is no room for Socratic probing and dissenting, but only unquestioning confirmation and compliance. There is no place for either Denis Kucinich or Ron Paul. They can say what is right and just, but they are deemed un-Caesar-like. Anyone sounding less imperial is, thus, considered outside the mainstream - weak and, by default, unfit to rule America.

So pervasive is this culture that the Senators John Kerry and Hillary Clinton had to join the club of believing the scripts prepared by the nihilists within the Republican Party in favor of going to war against Iraq. Even after all these years, when Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice have been found to have deliberately lied and deceived America, the paternalistic nihilists within the Democratic Party have to behave like the evangelical nihilists within the Republican Party. Thus, when it comes to furthering the imperial ambition of America, there is virtually no difference between any of the major candidates – John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama – each one trying to sound more hawkish than the other. Obama wants to bomb Pakistan, Clinton wants to invade Iran and McCain wants to occupy Iraq for a hundred years! What audacity!

The other worrisome matter is that imperial democracy inevitably promotes and in turn draws its strength from sentimental nihilists – the publicity agents or propaganda machines that are unwilling to probe. They hinder coverage of hard facts that may not be politically correct, thereby polarizing and balkanizing citizenry and contributing much to the decline of public trust in political discourse. Not surprisingly, the American media accepted and spread imperial lies about WMDs. They became 'embedded' journalists covering the war – providing views that were approved by their masters.

Truly, in America today media are becoming mere parasites on their evangelical and paternalistic nihilist hosts. In contrast, genuine democracy thrives on a free and frank press that is willing to speak out painful truths about the society. When the so-called free press lacks the autonomy or courage to inspire democratic energies, democracy is in danger. America is in danger.

But with a functioning liberal democracy, things are not supposed to be this menacing. As hinted above, the change in America did not happen overnight. It took years for the rise of an ugly imperialism that has been steered by an unholy coalition of plutocratic elites, Jewish neoconservatives and the Christian Right, and aided by a massive disaffection of many voters who see no difference between the two major political parties.

One can only wonder how America – the country that still attracts and retains the most talented minds - ends up electing mediocre and milquetoast leaders in public office! It is as if the brightest citizens boycott elected public offices, while the most ambitious go to the private sector. Those who want to be elected need millions of dollars to campaign for election. However, few are blessed like Ross Perot or Mitt Romney to spend their own money. Guess: who provides that 'needed' campaign money? It is the lobby groups, special interests and corporations. It would be foolish to imagine that they provide such funds for free.

It is not difficult, therefore, to understand why the majority of American voters don't vote. They know that political leadership is confined to two parties that are both parasitic on corporate money and interests. The illicit marriage of corporate and political elites has undermined trust of informed citizens in those who rule over them.

Political leaders sound like as if they still believe in democratic principles. But the reality is that they are too willing to sacrifice those principles to gain and retain power. Sadly, thus, politicians have bastardized and pulverized the word "democracy" as they fail to respect and act on real democratic ideals, but act what their financiers dictate.

The situation is bleak in the private sector, too. Our corporate leaders continue to sacrifice their integrity on the altar of profits while our media watchdogs sacrifice the voice of the dissent on the altar of audience competition, the Nielsen Ratings.

Click here for Part Two

[About the author: Dr. Siddiqui is a human rights activist and lives in Pennsylvania. He has authored six books.]

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Emanuel Paparella2008-03-23 17:58:17
Interesting and lucid article. I agree with most of what you mention Dr. Siddiqui. In the promised follow-up can we now expect another lucid analysis of this paradox which continually perplexes me, that it is the same West, (which of course includes America besides Europe, the first practitioner) with a history of violent colonialism and imperialism, which now proclaims itself the champion of peace (that Kant called “perpetual peace,” best found in a cemetery…) and human rights and democracy and ecological harmony and all those wonderful ideals; all pretty much proclaimed in the abstract as a sort of transcendent Platonic universal ideals with few if any concrete applications. When the chips are down, oil, business and material values seem to assume a privileged position over human rights, to wit the Tibetan massacre going on as we speak about which much rhetoric will be spilled parading as a sort of White Man’s Burden superior moral pedestal (the same rationale adopted for colonization and subjugation of allegedly inferior cultures), but precious few concrete acts of real universal but particular liberations since the West is in debt up to their neck with China…. The first act ought to be to understand what the Tibetans are clamoring and protesting about. Nobody seems to know but we all want to present them with the gift of universal human rights. In short, can a West that has never properly acknowledged and repented of its history of colonialism and its injustice vis a vis the so called third world now be credible when it proclaims itself the champion of social international justice? Another, even more succinct way of putting it is in the form of a question: is peace without authentic justice, which would require real repentance and reparations and a real turn around, ever possible? I look forward to your thoughts on the matter.

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