Happy Soul Food Friday!
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1801
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
–President Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865
“Don’t Let Me Down”
Lake Street Dive – [The Beatles cover]:
Voting for AMERICA- No Matter Who Wins:
As we sit on the cusp of this historic and divisive election, I wanted to share this Op/Ed that Dr. Ken Druck and I co-authored, and was published in The Hill in Washington DC the evening before the election.
If you agree with our premise, please share this and help us spread the word, so we can meet this moment in our nation’s history, and through our collective will chart a civil course forward for every generation that follows…
Neville (and Ken)
The Real Choice is Between Trump and John Dewey: “Democracy is not something you have, it is something you work on together.” He is not up for election, but it is in his spirit that I have now voted by mail: the great American philosopher John Dewey. With him as our guide, we can restore American democracy
By Tim Whyte, U.S. Citizen and Secretary-General of MS.
When I recently mailed in my vote for the upcoming US presidential election, I was caught off guard by doubts: Is this worth it? Will my vote be counted at all or will it be discarded by the army of lawyers who, after the election, will try to have as many votes as possible declared invalid? Does it still make sense to maintain my citizenship in a country where the democracy and ideals I hold dear are all but publicly abandoned?
My doubts are partly related to the fact that it took an alarmingly long time to even get my ballot this year. At first I thought it was probably just because of the many absentee ballots this year. But soon my concerns grew: could it be deliberately mislaid? I could see on the Oregon Electoral Office website that my ballot had been sent, but after more than a month, I still had not received it. Finally the ballot arrived and I got to vote. But I was left with a question that I think many Americans share: how did we get to this point, where my first thought is whether my vote will even count this year?
There are indeed many things that are unusual about the US election this year, but one of the most worrying is that so many ordinary voters on both sides have gradually lost faith in the most fundamental thing in the democratic toolbox, namely the ability to hold a fair election. And with good reason. The president has thundered against the voting by mail which will be used by many millions of Americans (mostly Democrats) during the COVID crisis. Now we have an ugly mix of heavily armed civilian militias at the polls, restrictions on how ballots can be returned in some states, and an army of lawyers who are trying to discount as many votes as possible.
Seen from Denmark, it may seem like a peculiar way to decide an election. It is. But it is important to remember that the history of the United States is, in a way, a long struggle to expand the right to vote. The founding fathers’ battle cry of “no taxation without representation” was more groundbreaking as an idea than reality. From the Civil War to women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement, Americans have since fought to be allowed to vote. But unlike many other democracies, the exercise of restricting the right to vote is still today an active part of the Republican Party’s strategy of maintaining power. During the 2000 election, Republican lawyers stopped recounting of votes in Florida, where several thousand votes were declared invalid. That was probably crucial to Bush winning the election. Even then, Republicans called it a fight against voter fraud. The good news is that trying to restrict the right to vote usually motivates people to fight even harder to be allowed to vote. The preliminary figures this year also show that a historically large number of voters will vote this year.
But even though the conflicts over suffrage are old, there is still something special this year. For one thing is certain: no matter who wins this year, there will be millions of Americans who do not recognize the result. It is a problem that goes beyond the election process itself and is about a deeper democratic crisis in the United States. And it is here that the United States’ version of Grundtvig and/or Hal Koch, the great American philosopher John Dewey comes into the picture.
John Dewey said of democracy that it is more than a form of government. It’s a way of living together. The more I look at my second homeland now, the more I think about Dewey and what we have lost. Many Danes associate the United States with the extreme individualism that characterizes the Republican Party in particular today. But it is a simplified picture of American culture, society, and history that ignores a far more community-oriented spirit that characterized most of the last century. John Dewey was absolutely central to this. He was the greatest American philosopher and intellectual in the first half of the 20th century, but he was also a social reformer who played a crucial role in building the public education system and understanding democracy and society. Much of what he said about the basic form of democracy shows exactly where the country is off track today.
Take, for example, the resistance to wearing a face mask, which viewed from Denmark seems completely incomprehensible and which, according to the leading American epidemiologist, has made the corona pandemic significantly worse in the United States. The president, along with many Americans, has made this out to be a matter of individual freedom. But Dewey would say they have completely misunderstood freedom. One of Dewey’s basic points is that freedom is not something we are born with or can achieve alone. It is something we achieve through collaboration with others. My freedom to take the bus, send my children to school, participate in society and generally stay alive in the midst of a pandemic is conditional on others wanting to wear a face mask, maintain social distance and practice good hygiene. To put it another way: freedom is achieved through community cooperation.
Dewey says the same about equality. And that, in turn, is quite revealing of the vastly different ways Americans view the major social movements, BlackLivesMatter and MeToo. Republicans are allergic to all talk of systemic racism or sexism because everyone is born equal in the United States and therefore it is a mockery of the country and their self-esteem to claim that people’s conditions are different. Aka AllLivesMatter. But Dewey would say that equality is something we create for each other. That we obviously are born with different preconditions and perspectives on life, and the task of society must be to ensure that everyone has the best possible opportunities for growth.
Fundamentally, the democratic crisis in the United States is not just about a single president or presidential election. It is about rebuilding the democratic culture of the United States. According to Dewey, democratic culture is first and foremost about three things: our ability to influence the small and large communities of which we are a part; the ability of those communities to help us reach our potentials, and last but not least, our ability to be able to participate in several communities and groups across the board. In all three areas, the United States has been challenged by the extreme economic inequality that has developed over the last 40 years. The political system is deeply dependent on money and has given many ordinary voters an experience that they cannot really influence it, no matter who they vote for. Social mobility has stalled in the United States, so the American dream is in reality far more accessible in Denmark than it is in the United States today. And the polarization in media, education, income levels, and even voting districts has become so extreme that the various communities and groups in society are virtually living in different countries. Developments in social media in recent years have only made the polarization more extreme.
This is not the country that I love and feel a part of – I can barely recognize it. But in choosing to hold on to my American passport, it’s because there’s another story about the United States that’s worth fighting for. In deciding to be hopeful and use my right to vote, it is because – as Dewey said – democracy is not something you have, it is something you work on together. That work is imperfect and unfinished, and that is exactly why millions of Americans continue to engage. Movements such as BlackLivesMatter, MeToo and the climate fight have in recent years inspired not only Americans but people all over the world. And that work continues.
Peaceful Protesters Social Media Kit:
I get that many of us will be upset with the results given the polarizing nature of the election and divisiveness in our country.
That said, here are some tips on peaceful protesting that might serve us all well.
Sky Art By Mother Nature
Thanks this week go to Ken D, Elizabeth D and The Future Design Society, The San Diego Non-Violence Coalition, Charles B & Larry H.
Please pay it forward with civility!