American Democracy Remains at Risk as the Insurrection Continues

My 2021 goal: creating value–bridging America’s political and cultural divide.  Easier said than done. 

In the SGI-USA, the Buddhist organization I’ve been a member of for 40+ years, this is the Year of Hope and Victory. I’m in with that.

Joe Biden has lots of hope. He accomplished in four months more than Donald Trump did in four years (in my view). But he’s having a hard time fostering bipartisanship in Congress. That’s politics; not the practice of Buddhism–or any other faith.

In 2017, I published a tenth anniversary edition of a memoir Waiting for Westmoreland, the path from Vietnam to enlightenment. The back cover blurb says this:

The book is the true story of a 20th century Candide—an innocent growing up in America in the fifties. As a boy, the author suffers the death of loved ones. Spending a year in Vietnam, with its readily available sex and drugs, thoroughly corrupts his youth. Then the political realities of the war and Watergate shatter his idealistic illusions about America. So, to reclaim his virtue and ideals, he thinks he must reform the people or institutions that failed him.

His quest for the tools of change becomes a frustrating pursuit. Finally, he encounters a person who has the knowledge he needs. She introduces him to the life philosophy of Buddhism, which reveals that the credit or blame for all of life’s events lies within—not from others. Looking for happiness outside oneself is fruitless. Only by taking personal responsibility for one’s own life can one be truly happy. Reforming oneself, not trying to change others, is the means for making the world a better place.

Q: So, why all the politics here on Views from Eagle Peak  the last few years?

A: In 13th Century Japan, Nichiren, the founder of the Buddhism I practice said this, “There are not two lands pure and impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.”

Our tagline for Views is Seeing things as they really are, without the illusions or delusions. 

The thing is, there are millions of delusional people out there–members of one of the two major political parties in America. Guess which one. 

Are parties analogous to lands? Is delusion evil? Well, not necessarily. But there is one party that exhibits racist behavior–the one once called the Party of Lincoln. The roles of emancipator vs oppressor of minorities have reversed again. 

Words do matter. Especially when they’re false—AKA lies. 

In recent polls, 70% of Republicans STILL believe Joe Biden didn’t fairly win the 2020 US Presidential Election. Why?

There are two reasons for the belief in the BIG LIE (that the election was stolen from Trump):

  • Because Trump said so–and they believe HIM.
  • The echo chambers of consumer choice–right-wing cable, network, web, social media, talk shows, etc. that confirm the false narrative of fraudulent ballots or counting irregularities.

Over the last few decades, the availability of news that reflects the perspectives and biases of the listener/reader/viewer has increased substantially. Why look for objective news that doesn’t match one’s beliefs in reality when one can enter the echo chamber and have opinions or conspiracy theories validated as fact?

When checking the weather, people really want to know what’s expected for that commute, game, trip, etc. It’s annoying, frustrating even, finding that the politician or party one favors is corrupt or not serving one’s interests.  BUT it’s as important–if not more so, than knowing whether an ice storm or tornado is coming, that the President is a liar, a cheat, a con man or worse. 

Joe Biden won–fair and square. That’s a fact.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said (as did others, in subtle variations in wording), “You are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts.”

ALL Presidential election results in the 2020 race were certified in each state and territory. Many of those states were controlled by Republican secretaries of state. There were audits and recounts in many states, with no change in the results.

As many as 60 legal challenges were filed by lawyers associated with Trump. Many of the judges were appointed by Trump himself or former Republican presidents. All but one case was summarily dismissed–the other on a technicality prior to considering the merits.

William Barr and the Trump Department of Justice found no significant fraud in the election either. 

The insurrection continues? Yes, it does–just in a new form. The new attack on democracy is on the popular vote itself–not on the results.

The insurrection began with the January 6, 2021, latter day of infamy. The violent attack on America’s Capitol by a mob instigated by Trump himself.  White supremacists, conspiracy theorists and a variety of other right-wing groups–Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Boogaloo Boys and more.

The new attack on democracy is directed at future elections. Hundreds of bills passed in Republican led legislatures across America. Bills reducing polling place hours, days to vote, mail-in voting, and much more. All making voting more difficult–for minorities and those more likely to vote for Democrats. The goal:  Republican candidates win despite fewer registered voters. AND if the results aren’t to their liking–the legislature can overturn them. That’s called autocracy, not democracy.

At the January 6th insurrection, the Trump mob killed or injured nearly 150 police officers. Millions of people watched on live TV–across mainstream media channels, PBS, cable and more as they stormed the Capitol, breaking windows and defacing historic architecture and artifacts.

Why? To overturn the results of the 2020 Presidential election. They set up a noose and chanted to hang Vice-President Mike Pence. Others hoped to kill Nancy Pelosi and kidnap others.

Yet, even as their lives had been at risk, a substantial majority of Republican House members voted to object to certification of Electoral College results–accepting the BIG LIE. Eight Senators acceded to the same falsehood.

We could go on and on about truth versus lies (AKA “alternative facts). Like with the reality of the pandemic versus it being no big thing. The deaths of over 600,000 people seems real. To some, that’s not even a fact.

Back to Buddhism–changing oneself to change the world. Hating those who don’t believe what you believe doesn’t help. They still have a latent state of Buddhahood buried within. Changing political leaders will NOT necessarily make the country safer, healthier, happier or more financially successful–for all. BUT–praying, speaking and acting on the belief of the humanity of the other side is the path to positive results. That, instead of simply condemning or ranting about the racist and autocratic actions of folks on the other.

But make no mistake, American democracy IS at risk. If the laws already passed and the others in process take effect, it will be possible that the results of elections in 2022 and 2024 could be overturned.  Legal and political efforts ARE essential.

As a Buddhist, I may pray for good health. But if I have a severe infection or a broken limb, medical intervention is required–not just faith in my religious practice. 

Great things have already happened with Biden as President. More improvements are on the way. I have hope that America is turning the page to a brighter and more successful future. But it won’t be without continuing controversy and division. That’s the nature of the times America is in. We must bridge the divide. It WILL take time. We must be patient and determined

Unlike the last five years, this will be only the second post on politics—the GOP and Trump. Don’t expect another post like this one before the fall–unless political lightning strikes. 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “American Democracy Remains at Risk as the Insurrection Continues”

  1. Enjoyed this thoughtful post John. Democracy is definitely at risk here, there and everywhere. As you imply change doesn’t come about by ranting ,raving and rioting, but by effecting a change within, a change of attitude. From the micro to the macro.
    All best, Susan

  2. The clock is ticking. Joe has his plate full. I say he better step on the gas getting judges through before he can’t and kill the filibuster.

    1. Yes, things didn’t turn out as wonderful as I hoped in November 2020. But it could have been much worse–the “Reichstag moment” that General Milley noted (from the new book, I Alone Can Fix It) of an actual coup by Trump. That’s the whole point of not relying on politics alone to save the world. Last night I had another episode of AFib going on for an hour and a half. I started my Buddhist chant at that point (should have done so earlier!). At 8:55 I determined it would stop in five minutes and return to normal rhythm or we would go to the ER for them to make it stop. It stopped at 9 PM. Now, if I and like-minded people just really believed we could change the hearts and minds of all those conspiracy minded Trump believers and his sycophantic GOP officials, through the power of faith and practice we could see the change we seek. Changing ourselves is the key. But it would help if Biden stepped on the gas.

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