Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Shoe Rebellion

Think Progress righfully hits Juan Williams for suggesting that Iraqis are ingrates for being upset that we invaded their country and trashed the place. But I thought the part before that was even more telling. Williams was talking about the dude who threw the shoe at Bush, and after O'Reilly suggested that he would have hit the guy for throwing his shoes, Williams said (in a rough paraphrase I made):
I'm serious. I really would have punched the guy. It's disrespectful to the President of the United States. We're a democracy. And I don't care about your dissent, that's not the place or the time. The fact is, you know what, President Bush was elected by the people of the United States even after the invasion of Iraq and after the weapons of mass destruction were not found. He's our president, so don't do that. We wouldn't do that to your pres...don't do that to ours.

But of course, when exactly would Muntadhar al-Zeidi have gotten the time and place to properly express his feelings about the horrors Bush caused in al-Zeidi's country? And who are we kidding? Had the guy actually told Bush his feelings, it would have made exactly zero difference. None at all. Bush would have completely ignored the criticism and politely told the guy to stuff it.

The Republican Model of Democracy

And that was the underlying problem with the Bush Presidency: It's not a democracy. Republicans see democracy as short-term dictatorships, where you try to get away with as much as you possibly can before the dictatorship ends. And if you tell the dictator things he doesn't want to hear, he won't give a shit. They won't take it into consideration. They won't try to fit your interests into their schemes. They will simply ignore you or try to find ways to undermine you and deny you power. And they've expanded that concept so thoroughly that they even regard negative feedback as if it was a usurpation of their authority. They don't just expect control over the people, they want control over reality too.

And that's why things have gotten as badly as they have. As I've said repeatedly, the big advantage of democracy isn't that it's the best system for picking leaders; as it obviously isn't. The big advantage is that it empowers people and gives them control over their own destiny. And this makes them a part of the system and much more likely to make sure that the system works. But in the Republican model, that's all thrown out the window. They feel that once they've suckered you into electing them, that's it. They're in. And as long as they can keep power, they get to keep it.

For them, voting is democracy. You got your stinking democracy on November 4, and you won't see it again until the next election. And that's it. Politicians have power. Presidents have the most power. Citizens have none. Presidents deserve respect, not because they earned it, but because they got the job. And as long as 51% of American voters picked somebody to run our government, that person deserves the respect of the entire world and nobody else can complain. And if you don't like it, Juan Williams will punch you right in the face. I'm serious. He will. Punch you right in your ungrateful face.

Power to the People

And that idiotic idea is clearly the basis for Juan Williams odd statement about democracy. Hell, it'd be illogical for him to use it against an American who had thrown his shoes at Bush. But Williams is basically saying that the leader of any country can do anything they want to any other country without the people in that other country having any right to do anything about it, because they didn't elect the guy. Huh? That doesn't even approach rational thinking. But again, it's simply an extension of the Republican model of democracy. For them, democracy is about picking leaders, not empowering people.

And what happens if people believe they have no power over the system? They blow shit up. They subvert the system. And they throw shoes, because it's the only outlet they have available. That's not to say this is necessarily justified, as the Oklahoma City bombers also believed that they had no say over the system and felt they needed to give the government a blackeye in order to take some of that power back. And the crazy twats attacking Obama's citizenship are a part of that. They firmly believe democracy is supposed to give them power, it didn't, so democracy must have been subverted. And they'll take back the presidency no matter what.

But this is all part of the same thing: If people believe they have no power over their lives, they take actions to obtain the power they think they deserve. And that's the exact point of democracy. It obviously doesn't always work, but that's the intent. And a society as large and complicated as ours could never function without it. And it's always like this everywhere. Bosses who empower their employees are more likely to get better work out of them. Same with teachers who empower their students. Same with every other similar situation. People who feel that they're a part of the system and have real input into it will do better than people who are locked out of the system. This isn't complicated. It just isn't explained properly.

So, sorry Mr. Williams, but if shoe throwing is the only outlet you give an Iraqi to express his anger at what Bush did, that's what you're going to get. And while you might not like to see your Prez getting dissed by some dirty Iraqi journalist, it's still a part of democracy. Democracy isn't a suicide pact. Nor is it something that's just done on Election Day. We're in it as long as it works for us. After that, anything goes; including horrid shoe throwing. Maybe if more people could throw their shoes at the people in power, the world would be a better place. Power is a priviledge; not a right.

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