Saturday, February 12, 2011

Democracy, American Style

Every once in a while, something happens to remind me why America, as screwed up as we are politically, is fundamentally a cool place. Watching Egypt fight, over the past few weeks, to obtain the democracy we take for granted was one of them.

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago, we fought that same battle. It took us, not eighteen days, but six years to accomplish the goal. Perhaps it was because we had to work so hard to earn our democracy that we esteem it so highly.

To my mind, though, the thing that sets America apart from a lot of other attempts at democracy didn't occur until 1792. That was when George Washington, who could have hung onto power with the same python grip Hosni Mubarak has exerted over the past thirty years, chose to walk away, to return to being a farmer, to let someone else have a turn.

It is when I see the evil men do to gain and hold power that I'm truly awed at what the founders of the country managed to accomplish. Think about some of the dictators we've seen:

  • Fidel Castro, Cuba, death toll: 15,000 to 17,000

  • Edi Amin, Uganda, death toll: 100,000 to 500,000

  • Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, death toll: 20,000+

  • Teodoro Obiang, Equatorial Guinea, death toll: unknown, bank account: $600MM

The reason I chose these four, out of the dozens from the last century, is that each of them took over from another dictator, took power swearing they would not repeat the mistakes of the last ruler, that they would institute democracy and let their people have a choice.

And each was, inevitably, seduced by power (or lying their asses off in the first place, but that's a whole different post).

By contrast, we have a government that, every four to eight years, without revolution, without bloodshed, without riots in the streets, transitions from where-we-are-today to where-we-want-to-be-tomorrow.

So check us out, Egypt.

Cause you could do worse.


  1. I was out of the loop at first on what that was all about, but I agree on all accounts...unfortunately there will always be a dictator who thinks there way is better, and a marriage or partner will not be enough...they go after a multitude and bank account.

  2. Interesting that only one person commented on this beautifully written piece yesterday.

    Maybe it's because many people believe that if you don't have something bad to say about America, you shouldn't say anything.

  3. You sure know a lot about history. You are right. Hats off, America!

    Thanks for this positive post!

  4. Interesting to watch events unfolding in Egypt - I wonder what's going to happen next.

  5. This is great, I hope you sent it in to your local newspaper!

  6. What a brilliant post! I found my head nodding throughout as you stated it so well. I wonder for Egypt if they will achieve democracy anytime soon. With the military rule it seems unlikely.
    Yes, we are very fortunate to live in this country and we are very fortunate to be able to discuss all the myriad of things we do not like. We have it made!
    Thanks for the follow and I'm excited to be following you back. Love your writing!

  7. Well said - but in those days other countries didn't interfere, of course. Or not as much.

  8. Good post, Jeanne. Our 4th Prime Minister was "in power" for 22 years, but boy were we lucky to have had him. He was our Roosevelt. Now I think we are more ready to have it American style. Whether it will happen or not, we'll have to wait and see.


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