Sunday, November 08, 2020

Through the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched...

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I spontaneously felt like singing that song.

Sure, I've sung the song before, but had never felt any connection with it. It's a war song about fighting for a symbol, and all too often fighting for the symbol itself means fighting against the principles the symbol is supposed to represent.

Like when I was a teenager and people tried to deface the US Constitution with an ironic amendment to ban burning the flag. Or more recently as fascism has come marching in, dripping in stars and stripes.

But after we'd held our collective breath waiting for the results to come in, I felt I could see the last shreds of democracy still waving gallantly in the dawn's early light.

Democracy. It's such an easy thing to lose. When a president can openly line his pockets with foreign contributions and face no consequences. When he can brag about breaking the law, and the government is unable to remove him from office for it. When he can shrug at the murder of a journalist for a US newspaper. And then openly plan to use a stacked court in order to overturn an election. That's all it takes. That's all it takes to go from a government of the people to a government of the people in name only.

Naturally this victory doesn't mark the end of our problems, rather the beginning of a long, hard process of making things better. It's the foot shoved into the door of democracy that a would-be dictator and his cronies were trying to slam shut for good. And now it will take tremendous strength and perseverance to pry the door open.

The Unites States of America is a country built on conflicting foundations. One foundation is made of the enlightenment ideals of liberty, justice, and universal human rights. The other part is built on the polar opposite of those values: slavery and genocide. These two motifs have continued to shape the country throughout its history. Naturally I hope the good will one day defeat the evil. And, although I guess we can't be certain to have defeated the current threat until January 19th, I think we've taken a small but critical step in the right direction.

I'm especially happy for the young Americans coming of age at this moment in history. They might have learned the lesson that there is no hope; that they simply live in a country where the president is above the law and journalists mysteriously disappear -- so they might as well give up and just try to scrape by as best they can as individuals. Instead they learned that they can work together and push back -- and they can keep pushing farther, towards liberty and justice for all.