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November 13, 2019


Professor Kennedy in her blog today notes that Trump has debased the presidential office and politics in general so badly that we may never become once again civil in our political discourse. Most of the comments of my fellow contributors in their responses were rather negative in suggesting that our ability to get along politically has been permanently wounded, that we cannot put the genie back in the bottle etc. One of her contributors suggested a Marshall Plan to repair the rift. I responded to her offering, slightly edited, as follows.

We do indeed need a Marshall Plan, not to rebuild war-torn infrastructure but rather to rebuild confidence in our democratic values, in the absence of which we can expect  accelerating greed and control grabs among those who lust for power not only for money but for all power and the end of our democracy, an attempt which, if successful, will result in the end of our democracy and imposition of authoritarian rule en route to failed state and perhaps colonial status. I am now more mindful than ever why my old World Politics professor at university insisted on calling humans “homo saps” rather than homo sapiens, the former a deserved label as measured by the social misconduct of many of us these days – and as history tells us – the misconduct of many of those before these days.

That said, and back to the topic for the day, we start from where we are, and however daunting, must insist that the democratic values we inherited from the agoras of Athens via the library of Jefferson be followed. We need not repair such values; they remain constant and are there for the taking. What we need to repair are the ideas and attitudes of the members of our society, ideas and attitudes which currently foster greed, power grabbing and the like as well as racism, class distinction etc.  (which are designed to give moral authority to such anti-social ideas and attitudes) and which, I fear, will be harder to repair than an unnecessary attempt to repair our democratic values, as in, how do you repair racism?  It will take time and perseverance for our repair effort to play out, especially given the last few years when Trump, Putin and others who would destroy our democracy have dug our anti-social hole deeper than ever, but to reiterate, you start from where you are – and here we are – and it’s not 1984 just yet.

Our immediate task is to turn those who are digging the hole deeper out of positions of authority. Politically and metaphorically speaking, we need to fill the hole, not dig it deeper. To state the obvious, we must take the shovels away from the homo saps (Trump-led Republicans), break out our own democratic tool kits, and work without ceasing to repair our society’s ideas and attitudes with a view toward saving and strengthening our tattered democracy – so let’s get on with it.       GERALD           E

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