This entry begins what I hope to be a long-term endeavour to understand the flaws of American democracy as structurally open to tyrannical or totalitarian tendencies. I realize the severity and seriousness of this topic, and this post below marks the beginning of my commitment to dealing with it in a responsible, compassionate way. I have also established this post as a new page under “Principles,” but place it here as a historical marker in case of later revisions.
It’s not clear to me that anybody gains by getting involved with politics these days. It’s so easy to be demonized for a minor mistake or for no reason at all. When the searchlight of angry internet rage finds you, no thick skin or the stone wall can block its burning gaze. I take it seriously that there is a great deal of anger in the world and that anyone who ventures to criticize it is no longer in control. In a sense, the point of this blog is to try and explain why I’m scared enough of the consequences of all the anger I see to let it go unchecked.
I am not simply worried or moderately exercised by the rampant hypocrisy and name-calling that passes for informed criticism today. I am concerned about a structural problem with democratic states that leaves them open to transformation into tyrannies or worse, totalitarian regimes. In particular, I am worried about the anti-democratic tendencies I see in America today. These are deep, serious concerns that can lead to strong political accusations and which therefore demand a counterbalancing sense of responsibility and carefulness. I unfortunately do not have the time or ability to do these problems full justice, and yet I do not feel content to hold my peace in the hopes that someone else will take up the challenge as I see it. This blog, then, is not a book, nor a scholarly work, nor even a well-researched journalistic report. It is the best that I can do as a well-educated, concerned citizen whose primary labor is spent on other pursuits out of necessity. I hope that in some sense the very limits of my project make it appropriate to this format of a blog, where the opinions and resources of others can be brought together as comments and postings in a public, online space.
I am well aware, however, that no fancy words or flowery rhetoric can hide the essential fact that there are thousands of other blogs making similar kinds of arguments using the same evidence, and that I would find many of them to be ridiculous, abhorrent, or at best misguided. In fact, the very problem I am attempting to address here is that we as a nation can no longer tell well-reasoned, sincere political argument from hyperbolic propoganda. I do not believe that the difference can be fully captured in the form or presentation of our arguments. Logic alone will not suffice. We must look to principles and actions as well.
For that reason, then, the way I hope to distinguish this blog from those to which it is opposed, or to anyone who acts out of thoughtless anger via any medium, is by making myself accountable under a set of general principles to anyone who reads these entries. What I will not promise is that at any time I am correct, acting in concordance with these principles, or in fact helping the cause I have set out to support. This might sound very strange, but it shouldn’t. What I am trying to show is that there is no total ideology, claim to perfection, or ultimate authority present here. I am a finite, limited being. I believe that living by the principles I set for myself is always a struggle and an impermanent achievement. I do not believe that someday Truth will descend on the earth and our struggle for the good will be over.
The point of the principles below is to join together the efforts of anyone interested in order to balance our weaknesses and support our strengths. We do this by our commitment to a community pursuing a higher set of goals. I hold myself accountable to these principles and I hope you will hold me to them as well. I should say that they are no more perfect than anything else, and that I expect to revise them and find that not everyone agrees. Nonetheless, only by acting and reflecting upon these principles do I expect to distinguish this blog from any other. Only by the actions, judgments, and thoughts of an open community can we distinguish sense from nonsense. I do not believe there is any better way. This ideal and its consequences, I hope, will help return meaning to politics and stability to our democracy.
1. Each person is in essence a good person. No one is beyond the pale although it may prove impossible to reach them.
2. Angry destructiveness, vengeance, ridicule, and similar actions are always counterproductive. They categorically harm more than they help.
3. Always moderate a claim to be proportional to its evidence. Hyperbole or exaggeration are signs of the desire for attention rather than the desire for the good of others.