There is growing animosity in the United States, which is creating fanatical polarization. A society that is said to respect human rights but yet denies those rights to fellow citizens. Forefront issues have become aggressive-boiling-pots since facts are now fiction based or fractionalized to create propaganda. People are not held accountable for and freely use misinformation to confuse issues to serve agendas that pit people against each other. None of this is new but winning has become the endgame in spite of the cost, and if not careful, it will create grievous civil war.
We cannot afford to ignore the barriers that are being built, which dehumanize populations and prevent the advancement of democracy. We need to be mindful and empathetic to the challenges that people face and insure that everyone has equal opportunity under encompassing democratic principles that separate church from state.
Growing up in the 60’s, I saw people constantly voicing concern and fighting for social change. People stood up for their rights and challenged the status quo. We saw it again in the 80’s with groups like Act Up who united in anger and demanded action to end the AIDS crises. These demonstrations drew media attention. There was great transformation even though groups faced demoralizing opposition. Lives were shamefully sacrificed as people stood up in order for justice to be heard. This took place in a nation that prides itself on the world stage as a leader of morality and democracy.
Where is democracy when our leaders allow children of our nation to go hungry or be faced with an absurd educational system putting debt on their backs? Where is democracy when it allows illness to financially devastate families? Where is democracy when it allows lobbing to overshadow people’s safety from issues such as gun violence or climate change? Where is democracy when it unjustly condemns a segment of it population to imprisonment or creates a for-profit justice system instead of resolving the root problem? Where is democracy when the nation flexes its imperial power on other nations when it is against the will of its people? And then there is wage inequality, and the list goes on and on.
It is not my intent to vilify government or ignore the advancements of social change. But I am dumbfounded by behaviors in the United States. I feel that people need to unite and stand up for rights, rights that are being taken away through an abuse of corporate and political power. Elected official are becoming more concerned with holding office than governing and improving the nation. They are beholden to the power of the wealthy minority and corporate donors, instead of the majority who they are elected to serve.
Democracy is about challenging ideas to improve them and insure that we have an evolving, humanist nation. It is about empowerment and opportunity for everyone. It keeps faith-based doctrine out of governing to serve the greater good. It allows people to believe in a god story if they so choose but it insures that those beliefs do not interfere with freedoms or truth.
In 2005 I produced stickers with the slogan “Wake Up Your Being Phuct” superimposed over a map of the United States. The states are in red with their boarders outlined in blue. The English language is being played with to draw attention to the growing divide amongst the American people; who anchor to a point when they feel that they are informed by a sound bite that does not fully color a complex issue. People get hung-up on the mania and not the underling problem. Moral purity is used to overshadow empathy and respect for others, contradicting the underlining values that people profess to live up to.
As a metaphor, I also want to bring awareness to the nonsensical belief of a so-called “bad” word, a word that is commonplace. Who decides a word is bad? Is the word no longer bad or offensive if it is spelt differently? Why do people choose a high ground or become offended when hearing a word that is clearly expressive?
During two years, as I traveled around the United States, I put stickers in unexpected places. They were placed in and not stuck to airplane magazines, hotel room Bibles, books in both libraries and bookshops. It was my hope that someone would discover it, interpret it as they saw fit, and then place it somewhere else. I used any vehicle to catch someone off guard to spark conversation. Friends also placed them in spots they felt appropriate.
Keep the conversation going. Hold our institutions accountable by questioning their intent and outcomes. Turning off the noise that creates confusion to the issues we challenge. Support greatness and ponder contemporary thinking, open up to a humanist society that accepts and celebrates diversity. It is our duty to live in harmony with one and other and the planet.