Winston Churchill is famous for saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government save all else.” How can we make democracy better? I realize that others may have it worse (e.g. China), but I want to be able to make it better here where I am an active citizen. Inspired by the actions of Ai Weiwei in 1,000 Years of Joys and Sorrows and many more, where speaking out exists even behind the Iron Curtain, I want to share my voice on how to hold on and improve democracy in the United States.
Democracy is fragile
Democracy is far more fragile than I thought it was when I was growing up. We’ve seen it tested in 2016, but clearly the American people voted in 2020 for an administration that believes in upholding the values of democracy. It was reaffirmed in 2022 at the midterms across the country when many election deniers failed to gain office.
I am a rational optimist. We cannot rest on our laurels. Democracy needs us to be active in living up to the promise of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for every individual. We do have to fight for democracy; if not daily, then in every election cycle, from the local school board to the Federal offices all the way up to the President of these United States of America.
We also have many things to fix:
~ electoral college
~ healthcare for all
~ education/college tuition
Learning from other countries
We have many freedoms but we are not as evolved as some countries who still have the monarchy or other government. We can learn from other countries.
France got rid of their King. They evolved out of the monarchy, and they are now a semi-presidential republic with a head of government - the prime minister - appointed by the president who is the directly elected head of state. France has the best healthcare in the world and funds healthcare for all. Kids can be kids and don’t have to pay for school. The French government subsidizes higher education, keeping tuition extremely low (at only hundreds of Euros per year). The highest tax rate is 48%, and businesses pay it. France’s full retirement age is 62 (which may soon increase to 64).
Their system seems to work pretty well. The French live longer, happier lives. French women live to an average of 88.6 and men will live to 81.7. In the U.S., on the other hand, women are projected to live to 83, and men 80. (Source: https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2017/french-health-longe...)
The United Kingdom still has a monarch and a functional capitalist system. Their minimum wage is a living wage. They have healthcare and college paid for if they want it.
On the other hand, it is scary to learn more about China through Ai Weiwei’s book and see where artists would be in favor with the leadership and be highly regarded and then fall out of favor if they wrote or shared the same messages. China is still controlling people and trying to suppress art even though capitalism has been extremely helpful to China and people are coming out of poverty and into the middle class. We can’t solve for communism, but we can solve for a better U.S. government.
Truth vs. lies
We need more voices who are speaking the truth. When Hitler used the radio, he could say whatever he wanted to. It was new and not regulated. We now face a similar fate with the Internet. Simply repeating yourself multiple times does not mean you are telling the truth. People just blindly believe what they read or hear without knowing what is true.
If you’re someone who wants to have a blog, make sure you’re the one who is telling the truth. If you do not want to do that, make sure you’re supporting legitimate sources like Paul Krugman, Nicholas Kristoph, Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd from The New York Times and others. Read and expand your mind with other points of view.
You also have to care about the truth. It is important to trust your gut when you feel someone is not telling the truth and speak out. When you publish or share your opinion, make sure you are well researched and know what you speak. If you just listen or interact with only certain voices out there, you may think things are okay, especially if you’re only listening to what you want to hear. Like it or not, we have to be vigilant to ensure we uphold the truth.
You also need to read books, have a private life, have a passport, and travel internationally. When you learn from what’s going on in other countries, meet people from all cultures, and learn from things that are not going well. A current example is support for Ukraine.
I also encourage you to use your voice, your power to promote free and fair elections. I want us to use paper ballots that can be counted and recounted if necessary. They cannot be interfered with like electronic voting. Free and fair elections are a cooperative example of maintaining a true government of, for and by the people. If we don’t have that, we lose out to authoritarianism. It is not easy to maintain a democracy. We have to keep working on it to make sure we support the truth.
This is a start to building a better U.S. government where democracy thrives and works for all.