By Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq.
Admittedly, we live in an era when time is increasingly more ‘valuable.’ It is fleeting and, at one time or another, most of us are left wondering where it went. Our days are shaped in its rush, and it is the key to access our personal and interpersonal interactions. Truly, it is the most valuable commodity in our lives.
According to Newsweek Magazine, President Biden revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping cautioned him that democracies are on the decline and that one day “autocracies will run the world.” Ping said, “Democracies cannot be sustained in the 21st century, autocracies will run the world. Why? Things are changing so rapidly. Democracies require consensus, and it takes time, and you don’t have the time.” Pragmatists may accept President Xi’s world view, but those of us who have lived in pursuit of democratic principles and who embrace the concept of the expression of free will within an orderly social structure do not.
Without argument, any definition of society must include provisions for orderly conduct. I know of no society or culture that exists without such a system of laws and/or regulations which dictate personal and institutional conduct. In that way, democracies and autocracies are similar. The question of the current/future viability of democracies is a larger issue. My personal focus is on the “democracy” in which I live and work, and the threat that I believe it must overcome.
As a concept, Democracy supports respect for a multiplicity of ideas and beliefs. It is based upon the ideal of majority rule in decisions of governance with tolerance and benevolence toward the minority opinion. It is the opposite of what we see emerging from the “Republican reactionary right.” Rather than discussing the repellant political positions of individual Republican candidates, I ask my readers to consider and contemplate the reasoning and justification for the positions they take.
My belief system as an ordained minister may be called into question, but, as an attorney, I believe my understanding to be correct. I understand the US Constitution to protect the right of religious freedom. We do not have one officially recognized religion which must be observed in preference to another. I also understand that our Constitution protects citizenry from religion. We may believe, or not, as we choose. I have received emails which ridiculously state “What God told… “ (fill-in-the-blank). Rather than a divinely inspired revelation, I believe that any candidate presenting from that position is asserting a narrowly construed, personal religious opinion acceptable only to like-minded others, and which he/she wishes to impose upon the masses.
I am also concerned by the increase in the verbal dog-whistles used to disguise race, gender, religious, gender-identity hatred. We used to have to listen carefully, but the nature of hate-speech is increasingly obvious. The attribution of criminal and/or deviant intent to a political opponent without substantive evidence is, in my mind, itself criminal.
If nothing else, the events of the last seven years – from the vulgar coarsening of the political discourse to the January 6th assault on the seat of our governance – demonstrate the fragility of our democracy. We have become witnesses to the rapid erosion and disregard of the rights we have presumed normal, and their substitution with the dogmatic principles of a minority motivated by misguided religious principles, personal hatred and distrust, or the raw, brazen desire for power.
Thankfully, we still have the means to reject this encroachment upon our rights. How long it will remain useful is in question. I fear that it has a limited life-span. This means to our survival is our vote. We must use it thoughtfully and intelligently. Most importantly, we must use it. WE MUST VOTE! Hopefully, we will be in time!
Dr. E. Faye Williams, President of the Dick Gregory Society, United Nations Peace Ambassador. (drefayewilliams.com; the dickgregorysociety.org.