Home > Life, Politics, You've GOT to be kidding! > Don’t Believe the Hype … Democracy Is Hard

Don’t Believe the Hype … Democracy Is Hard

kidding3Uh oh….the crabby-faced girl is back….

The inevitable has happened. A casual political comment on Facebook has resulted in a “de-friending”. The worst part is, it’s from someone I would least like to lose as a friend for the reason it seems to have happened.

For those unfamiliar with Facebook, it’s mostly a fantastic waste of time but can dredge up a good conflict once in a while (like the time I got lambasted for jokingly sending a campaign “button” representing my guy to a friend who was very strongly committed to anyone BUT my guy). Now it seems that my participation against this other person’s “guy” has been met with a disinvitation to be his friend any longer. The worst part is, this “friend” is an old schoolmate who served several tours of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq and is not someone I want to show any disrespect for. Oops.

I don’t know where we Americans got the idea that democracy is easy. It’s not. In many ways, it’s probably a lot harder than most other forms of government because its success is reliant on the involvement and relative sophistication of its citizenry. We’re proving ourselves to be less and less sophisticated and much of our involvement is superficial (like writing blogs…). So what exactly is this “democracy” my friend was fighting for?

One definition is: “The practice or principles of social equality”. Some call it “the right to disagree, with impunity”. Bottom line: we all have different interpretations. I am ever violating the taboo about discussing religion or politics with people, not because I want to instill my point in others, but because I want to understand how other people think about the world. God knows, I don’t have all the answers (sometimes I’m not even convinced that GOD does), but the only way I gain a deeper appreciation for what I don’t know is to try to learn about why others think differently.

Yesterday on Air America (my first time listening online), Montel Williams brought up an interesting analogy in regard to race relations. He described our individual perceptions of the world as two people looking at a beach ball from opposite sides. In describing the ball, each person claims that it contains a certain set of colors. Neither side is right nor wrong; they simply have two different sets of information and assumptions based on what they are seeing. A peek around to the other side reveals a whole new understanding of the other person’s perspective.

As a member of a marginalized segment of society, I know what it is like to be unfairly vilified and misunderstood. But just as much, I tend to vilify in return those who would misjudge me — eye-for-an-eye justice. The only cheek-turning I do most of the time involves “dropping trou”. At times, I can be as unsophisticated as a moonshiner in Appalachia and I’m not proud of it, but I suppose it makes me like most other Americans. We don’t have all the information so we can only choose our own battles based on what we do know. We argue about the beach ball and throw sand at each other, further blinding ourselves from the possibility of seeing the other side of an infuriating issue. There is no hope for diplomacy when your eyes are stinging, and the game is over when one of the participants picks up the ball and goes home, refusing to play anymore.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been the better part of a decade since our “democratic” government  sent our military men and women to the middle-east to participate in a giant sand fight. My own myopic view from my side of the beach ball wants this conflict to end so I tend to support politicians who agree. Admittedly, I do not understand all sides, least of all the one of the soldier working tirelessly and courageously each day to try to create a democratic system of government for the people of Iraq, even as our own democratic republic seems to be crumbling before our eyes. The better part of me, the one that is able to turn the appropriate cheek, needs to believe that there is a higher-minded way out of this mess.

Nothing makes me madder, nor sadder, than to be accused of not supporting our troops. This is the fallacy of democracy and patriotism. The very freedoms our soldiers are fighting for are the ones we can’t exercise without risk of offense to those we least mean to offend. In not wanting to place young men and women in harm’s way for nebulous reasons, we are exercising what we believe to be our patriotic right not to resolve conflict through military action.

As much as I support and appreciate my friend’s participation in the war, I hope that he will come to see that my desire for it to end is also about supporting him. (See previous posts: Sweet Soldier BoyAmazing GraceA Cup of Comfort for Military Familes)

  1. Cheryl
    August 1, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Thank goodness, Ellen, that the whole “defriending” episode turned out to be nothing more than a Facebook error. I agree about the misconception that basically not being Republican means not supporting the troops. Our last Republican Commander-in-Chief was no supporter of our troops-sending them off to a frivolous war all because Saddam threatened his daddy!

  2. Keith
    August 2, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    I am constantly reminded of who my friends are, and thsankfully you are among the top of the list. Trust me when I say this, no one wants the mess in the middle east to end more than me. It seems my teasing Annette somehow caused me to get the big brother boot… but I am back…. and there is nothing that you, or any of my friends can say that will keep me away. I love all of you, and will defend you, and all of your rights for true happiness with my life, and do it gladly. You are my hero, you stand unwavering in your beliefs, and recognize other views as anothers opinion, and move on. You are awesome, and I am proud to be your friend. Love ya Ellen… and you too Cheryl, (ever since the 1st grade.)

  3. Cheryl
    August 2, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    We love you too, Keith and are so proud of you! But are you saying it took me a year to win you over? I thought our love started in Kindergarten!

  4. August 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Fear not the paranoid fantasies of middle age! I’m glad my musings were based on a fallacy–come to think of it, most of them are–but I suppose the world runs on a certain amount of misinformation and its resulting reaction. Indeed, we might not be in the situation we’re in over in the middle-east were in not for that very phenomenon.

    Welcome back, Keith! Glad Facebook forgave your comments and let you come back to us!

  5. Keith
    August 3, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Oh Cheryl, i am so sorry, but in kindergarten it was Googie O’Brien. I was new, he was brave and strong…. and you were just an ickey girl. I learned to love you through your constsnt rejections and stunning silence from my singing Partridge family songs to you…. LOL it is good to be back with my friends.. I miss you all and hope to see each and every one of you soon.

  6. efenz
    August 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    The things I missed in those early days…. as if you weren’t already cute enough in 7th grade, Keith, you must have been a sweet 7-year-old! Cheryl, I think you missed your chance!

  7. Cheryl
    August 5, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    That Wyman humor lives on! Love it!

  8. Annette
    August 5, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Hello my friends! I hope I haven’t moved to the “bottom” of the friend list! Yikes! I still love you guys and it’s been great catching up with everyone and knowing that you’re well and haven’t lost your senses of humor. It’s been great fun reading all the extremely witty posts and sharing some of your day. Keith-I have only love and respect for you! Yes…I was a little worried! I did take the comments as “teasing” but when I tried to “zing” back I realized I couldn’t…I was “defriended”. WTH? I was hoping it was an error…I’m so glad it was just an error…my apologies for ever doubting.

  9. Cheryl
    August 7, 2009 at 2:11 am

    My apologies for ever doubting too, Keith.

  10. Keith
    August 8, 2009 at 5:29 am

    i love you all and wil never let facebook come between us again

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