“United We Stand, Divided We Fall.”

By River James, Citizen State Advisory Committee Member

· Opinion
The morning after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I found myself thinking a lot about my nation’s Founding Fathers and the dream they envisioned. They couldn’t have imagined the changes that would occur over the course of two-hundred and forty years. Industrialization, aviation, automation, the rise of the Internet, satellite communications, antibiotics. So much that we take for granted would have seemed as miracles to them. Still, when they came together to create a new reality for their families and countrymen, they looked to the future. They did everything they could, knowing what little they knew, to devise a system of government that would care for the needs of the common people over the needs of the privileged elite.
Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, the unalienable rights laid down by the Founding Fathers were taken to heart by the American people. The country aspired to be the greatest nation, a beacon of Freedom that all other nations should emulate. Centuries of individuals dedicated their lives to the perfection of their personal American Dream. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” we told the world. Here, we said, is the land of opportunity.
Corruption has always walked hand in hand with those in power. It is a rare leader that holds principles above all else. The Founding Fathers attempted to check corruption in our government. They did not anticipate the devastating wealth and power that corporations would come to possess. Multinational conglomerations now dominate the globe, alienating and hypnotizing us with advertisements, buying elections and officials, and using their legislative puppets to write laws for profit. A gulf grew between the average citizen and the wealthy. As it grew, those of the establishment stopped listening to their countrymen and instead listened only to executives with deep pockets.

As the world became more connected, through travel, commerce, and communications, so too did our struggles become more intertwined.

This is not a uniquely American problem. As the world became more connected, through travel, commerce, and communications, so too did our struggles become more intertwined. The disenfranchised are everywhere. In many ways, we are louder than ever, shouting at one another through the Internet, a click away from everyone in the world who shares our values. Yet, we are also more isolated than ever before, preferring to surround ourselves with Media that depicts a reality we wish to see. When opposing views reach us, we deplore them, demonizing the people who hold them. And no matter how much we scream, no one is listening.
Politicians, more concerned with maintaining their positions than governing, care about campaign fundraisers more than the will of the people. They cater to radicals and paint their rivals as hideous enemies to be defeated. Camaraderie has all but disappeared in the political sphere, replaced with partisanship and fear-mongering. The Media learned quickly that conflict sells, so they helped create conflict among us, exchanging facts for emotions. Opinion is given more significance than objective truth, sensationalism favored over understanding, to the point where it is now nearly impossible to tell reality from fabrications. The establishment fed the fears of the extreme, and the moderate majority had little choice but to listen, unable to escape the endless streams of propaganda. All this for the sake of ratings and financial supremacy.
Fear is a powerful force of division. All around the globe there is an increasing sense of fragmentation. More and more people believe democracy is broken, that their votes are insignificant, and that the ideals of conservatism and liberalism are irreconcilable. We are all afraid of each other.
It was not the philosophy of conservatism or of liberalism that so poisoned us. It was the philosophy of vilism, the mentality of Us against Them at any cost, of disparaging all who have the audacity to disagree, that brought us to our broken state. Vilocrats stand on either side of the aisle, a bipartisan movement of identity politics and obstructionism. Once, polite disagreement and mutual concession were expected and accepted as the spirit of Democracy. Today, these vilocrats believe compromise is weakness. When the vilification of our countrymen takes precedence over understanding, change is impossible.
The world needs change, now more than ever. Our fear has given birth to anger, against the establishment, against stagnation, and against each other. The system is broken and no one is quite sure how to fix it.

It is our time to change the world again.

The Founding Fathers of the United States thought of Democracy as a great experiment. Many in their time believed such a radical system was unsustainable. Sooner or later, the nation would fall, just as the Roman Republic fell. But the Founding Fathers believed they could create a better system of government. They believed it was their duty to secure the blessings of Liberty for themselves and all who would come after them. And so they changed the world.
The Declaration of Independence is frequently quoted in the United States. Americans speak often of their Rights, of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. The next lines of the Declaration are less often remembered.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Most of us are not happy with our governments. Many of us do not feel safe. Technology and globalization have changed so much since the Founding Fathers created a nation. Perhaps it is our time to change the world again.
I believe the time has come for us to rise above national politics and create an international movement against vilism and demagoguery. So much hateful rhetoric has been spent against our countrymen that we have forgotten we are more similar than we are different. Most of us wish only for time to pursue our passions and to be left in peace with those we love. We must all strive for understanding. Let us replace hatred with compassion. Let us view willingness to compromise as a personal strength. We can accept the stagnation vilocrats have forced upon us, or we can individually commit ourselves to laying the foundations of a new society, one based on principles that protect and support all people, regardless of class, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion or race. It is time for us to radically rethink what is possible and risk a great experiment for a better future.