What Is It About Democracy That Some Americans Either Don’t Know Or Don’t Want To Know Or Can’t Know?

In 1776 and the years preceding and following the Declaration of Independence, America’s founding fathers wrested with the notion of how to put together a form of government that would restrain — by a fair set of laws — the human impulse to seek and gain personal advantage that was unfair to society at large. This nature-induced impulse of personal aggression, being part of the human defense mechanism, has been ravaging humankind forever — powering rape, murder, war and ruthless subjugation.

Yes, with slavery right under their noses — whose ways must inevitable somehow be fit into their noble pursuit — the founding father’s whole idea of universal fairness would seem to us today to have been a nonsensical objective.

Being such a complex challenge, the flaws inherited within our democracy because of slavery haunt us even today, though much progress has been attained in our idealistic pursuit of a democratic form of governance meant to bring about the most fairness to the most citizens though a system of just laws.

In Ben Rhodes’ new book, After the Fall, the former speechwriter and assistant head of national security in the Obama Administration writes about how easy it is for democratic rules of fairness to be overwhelmed.

“Perhaps, in the end, it is futile. You look at the obvious corruption that shapes things around you — from who gets wealthy, to how the wealthy maintain power, to how the powerful design systems to enrich themselves and maintain power, to the ravaging impact that that power can have on individual lives. The more you look, the more you see how the last 30 years of America hegemony has designed, wittingly or unwittingly, a system that others could easily manipulate — from big banks that are bailed out, to Putin and his cronies moving vast sums of oil money around a infrastructure of shell companies, real estate interests, and opaque corporations facilitated by a poorly regulated global economy, to the service industry that profits by running interference for the wealthy and powerful, be it disinformation campaigns, private espionage, or the occasional act of violence. Seeing all of that, you can either decide, rationally, to dive into the system — as I had done in 2008 — an accept its structural flaws while trying to make some discernible impact on it; or you can step outside it and give voice to your rage at the injustice of it all.”

From this sad reality one can see what a near impossibility it is to fight against one of nature’s most powerful impulses, an impulse rooted in the human survival mechanism that induces boundless greed, a drive for power or simply pushes one to want to gain advantage of some kind by any means possible. Add on top of this factor there is also natures’ tribal instinct inflicted upon the human psyche. The effect being so pronounced that even the slightest of sophisticated persons can appreciate what a tough, uphill climb it is to maintain a just democracy.

Indeed, human egocentricity, particularly within a primitive, reptilian, mindset, as for instance that most obviously exhibited by the childish selfishness of one Donald John Trump, it is clear to see just how easily democracy can be mauled by aboriginal and corruptible persons being most willingly to wallow unabridged in natures aggressive impulses. Yes, when it comes to democracy, we have met the enemy and it is them, those persons inherently prone to think all that benefits them is fair and all that benefits others is evil.

From those crude ones closest to nature like the Donald and his fanatical followers, words like freedom, the Constitution, democracy and fairness are just empty texts that they interpret as meaning, what advantage is it to me, not what advantage is it to society, the country or the world. Trump and Trump followers love each because they are only capable of loving each other. Concepts like wanting to save American democracy within their primitive, Darwinian reality have no meaning. Such perceptions require an intellect that is hopelessly beyond their being.

We who relish and want to protect and preserve democracy are convinced that Trumpers live in an alternant reality. But the shocker is that perhaps it is they, being closer to the impulses and ways of nature and mentally operating in the rough and tumble world of impulse aggression are the ones living in the real world, while we and our fantasies of democratic fairness live a pipe dream reality that never quite gets off the ground. Indeed, could it be that the contrasting Trumpers glorying in their crude “me first” Game of Thrones view of life are the ones living in the real world?

In other words is nature’s basic aggression about to once and for all overrun America’s (and now other parts of the world) experiment in democracy? Alas, where does reality lie? Ben Rhodes is wondering, too.

Jim Ridgway, Jr. military writer — author of the American Civil War classic, “Apprentice Killers: The War of Lincoln and Davis.” Christmas gift, yes!