Analyzing the inauguration speech
February 12, 2005
Bush delivered a very idealistic inaugural speech evoking the visions of democracy, liberty and freedom. Democracy is a very positive concept and Bush has wrapped himself with it. The workings of democracy in countries are a deep and complex subject; it is really just a form of government and in and of itself does not offer either freedom or righteousness. Consider:
Democracy is not viable without complete freedom of speech. In the U.S. a small handful of people own all the television and cable media which is where most Americans get their information.
Democracy can easily be “controlled” by money.
The “tyranny of the majority” can subjugate minority groups to less freedom and prosperity. Slavery is the big American example of this.
A poorly educated populous without knowledge of history or the ability to think critically can easily be manipulated in a democracy.
The ability of people to qualify to run for U.S. national office is often severely limited. Again money, privilege, and connections are far more important than one’s ideas or leadership qualities. George Bush is the perfect example. The Bush/Gore debates in 2000 were a national embarrassment.
Hitler was overwhelmingly elected by the Germans. The totally corrupt and “elected” PRI in Mexico held power for 70 years for all the reasons mentioned above. Castro and most despots around the world would easily be re-elected if elections were held.
Most organized religious movements lack rationality and independent critical thinking. They usually vote as instructed by their leaders in blocks that diminish liberties and weaken democratic processes.
My point here is that glowing idealistic speeches like the one Bush read (written by former theology major Michael Gerson), without specifics, are troubling coming from a man who invaded Iraq without justifiable reason. Bush is trying to wrap himself in historical American ideals as a new means of rationalizing his “oil war”. Woodrow Wilson gave idealistic speeches after WW1 “making the world safe for democracy”. Unfortunately, they were disconnected from reality and perhaps helped in creating an environment for the rise of the Third Reich. When we speak of democracy and freedom around the world, we must take a very realistic and thorough look at what makes democracy truly work. We must also realize that our system has many flaws. Although we can help promote democratic institutions, military solutions rarely work long-term and should only be used if we are truly, directly threatened. Our slow and tough perseverance in the Cold War with its battle of ideas, defensive military posture, economic example, and spread of information, effectively promoted democracy. Pre-emptive “cowboy oil invasions” are inefficient, bloody, expensive paths that should be avoided. It is hard to tell if the internal ingredients for a real democracy exist in Iraq. Patience, information, increased economic pressure, and so many other tactics should have been brought to bear before considering this invasion. To now claim the whole war was about democracy is ludicrous.
Let’s hope Bush gets back to reality and does not invade Russia, China, Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iran, N. Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Cuba, Belarus, Vietnam, Tonga, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Qatar, Bhutan, Vatican City, Turkmenistan, Oman, Myanmar, Liberia, or other counties with “phony democracies.” I would guess that those countries without oil or those co-operating with oil extraction do not have much to worry about. Improving our own democracy and leading by example will far more effectively assure our freedom, safety, prosperity, and survival.
Michael Schwalm is a contractor. He has lived in Nevada County for 10 years; currently in Penn Valley. Previously a regular columnist for The Union, now an occasional guest columnist.
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