Monday, November 5, 2018

THE ARCHITECTURE OF DEMOCRACY


"Real power is through respect. Real power is,
I don't even want to use the word, fear."
—Donald J. Trump

Yes, I’m an architect, and this is a blog about architecture and the built environment. Over the past two years, I’ve done my best to exclude my feelings about the nation’s current political situation. Today’s blog is different, however, and here’s why: I’m quite certain that tomorrow’s midterm election will be the most consequential in my lifetime. I was born in 1959, so that’s really saying something.

Tomorrow we will either reaffirm a coarse, hateful, and divisive President, or refute him and all he stands for. But there’s more at stake than rejecting the actions of one self-absorbed, money-obsessed billionaire. This election will also decide whether we continue to abide a Congress intent on methodically dismantling our democracy and selling it off piece by piece to corporate boards and the One Percent.

"Human kindness has never weakened the stamina
 or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation
does not have to be cruel to be tough.'
—Franklin D. Roosevelt
Since I fit the demographic of “old white male”, I feel fully entitled to likewise describe the current majority in Congress. They are a fading cadre of privileged men desperately clinging to power in the face of a changing United States of America. These are men long accustomed to having power. They feel entitled to it, and they seem willing to do anything to retain it, even to the detriment of our democracy. So desperate are they, in fact, that they now routinely put the good of their party before the good of our country.

However, nothing these men do can change the fact that we are an increasingly diverse nation—no longer one in which wealthy white men can run the show and expect everyone else to tag along—but one in which every person deserves a chance to take part. This is, after all, the meaning of democracy, despite our President's evident confusion in this regard.

What does this flag mean
to you and your children?
The news media speaks of the “polarization” of America as a struggle between Democrat and Republican. But I don’t see tomorrow’s vote as a competition between the Red team and the Blue team. Rather, it's a struggle between those desperately clinging to fading power—who invoke democracy only when it suits their purposes—and those who believe democracy really is for all of us.

This United States is a nation founded and then populated by dissatisfied immigrants, and we are a nation made infinitely greater by them over the past 242 years. We remain a place of imperfect equality and imperfect justice, but one which at least has always had the courage and decency to grapple with these shortcomings. No such tendency, however, has been apparent during this administration.

Tomorrow’s vote will determine whether we accept the idea of America as a gerontocracy run by billionaires and corporate boards, or whether we actually believe in that Pledge of Allegiance line I had to memorize in grade school:

“With liberty and justice for all.”

Whatever else you do tomorrow, please VOTE.




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