September 27, 2020

We may have tipped off the edge of democracy, and now my metaphor is in free fall.

Two thoughts occur in the last two months before the 2020 presidential election.

First, our political culture and system have offered democracy by deferral to a lot of people.  The Black Lives Matter movement speaks to dreams deferred. The vitality of the movement gives me hope.

Second, to achieve a more equitable society we are going to have to address race, class, and gender and their associated privileges in ways we have never as a society been very good at doing. That worries me.

The change we need is enormous.  And here we are, with democracy in crisis, the constitution under assault, and political power in the hands of a deeply conservative minority.  We are experiencing minority rule that is verging on authoritarianism.  That’s what Republicans want and that is where we may end up.  Getting to wherever we will be in 2021 is going to be hellish. 

In November 2016, right after the presidential election, I traveled for two weeks in Iran with a couple dozen Americans and Canadians.  I have written about that experience below.  For now, I want to tell a story—to mark my place in time. 

In Iran I met many people who love Americans.  I met them everywhere.  U.S. we love you, they told us.  They said that they distinguish between the people and the government when they think about the world.   The Iranian government, they observed, is not the Iranian people.  They think the same is true of the US.  More than once I heard sympathy from Iranians.  They told me how sorry they were that we in the US were going to experience what they themselves have known.  We are sorry, they said, for what is going to happen to you.

How bad could it be? I thought at the time.

Now I know the limits of my foresight in 2016.  At the same time, I am finding opportunities for action every day.  That is what keeps me going.

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