Friday, February 18, 2005

Is Democracy Really the Only Option?

Notice how even asking such a question seems heretical? Hang with me a few more sentences before deciding I'm completely subversive.

In this day and age of democracy getting shoved down the throats of nations not enlightened enough to come along peacefully, I can't help recalling evangelical icon C. S. Lewis's opinions about forms of government. He didn't write much on the topic, but it seems clear from the little I've noticed from him that Monarchy rather than Democracy was his favored form of government. Let him say it: "Where men are forbidden to honor a king, they honor millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison." (From his The Business of Heaven; thanks, Ben Jones for providing the quote I was hunting for.) I am not suggesting we institute a monarchy, by the way, or even saying I agree with Lewis. I don't, as a matter of fact. But neither do I agree with my own government's rather imperialistic (sorry, what other word can I use?) approach to exporting "democracy."

And let's be honest here -- America itself is not a democracy, but a republic. Important difference, that. Remember the Electoral College? The founders were nervous about the common rabble such as you and me running the show.

How about the fact that as originally formulated, some Americans (blacks) were less equal than others -- they counted only as three fifths of a person? The fact they even counted for that much had to do with southern states not wanting to be underrepresented in congress -- the thousands of slaves allowed slave states to have more muscle in the House of Representatives, even though those slaves had no voice or vote of any kind.

It is good to go over and over these facts, especially now.

"Democracy" ends up being one of those fast-food words used to make minds snap shut and salivary glands take over. Why did we invade Iraq? Because of WMDs? Oh, they aren't there. Well, it was all for the best... because now, Iraq will be a democracy. So we're told, and we gulp it down like a McDonald's hamburger.

My personal feeling is that democracy is as democracy does. To quote George Orwell's sinister pigs in Animal Farm, "All animals are equal but some are more equal than others." Perhaps it is odd to quote a parable regarding the sad history of communism to point out the difficulty with our present version of democracy, but I think it proper. The too apparent inequities in our own national version of democracy cause Orwell's phrase to ring in my head like a bell.

All men are equal under God... yes, I believe that. But democracy really is as it does. And what it does in today's America is less than it ought to be doing. A government that is really working ought to be about justice, and (if we take Old and New Testaments as any guide) justice for the prisoner, alien, impoverished, widow, and orphan first.

Give me a government like that, and you can call it whatever name you want to call it.

2 comments:

nancy davis said...

you have defintily done your homework and i agree,,a government like this "A government that is really working ought to be about justice, and (if we take Old and New Testaments as any guide) justice for the prisoner, alien, impoverished, widow, and orphan first" is a government that just might work.
but most of us don't want that because that would mean we would be accountable, and who wants to take responsbilty these days ?

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts...

A monarchy with a perfect King. That's what we need.

What are your thoughts on The Pledge? I talked with an atheist-communist co-worker recently who said he didn't recite The Pledge because it refers to God. I don't say The Pledge, because it refers to a generic "God" and is a pledge to a nation or flag and not to God. Your thoughts?