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Everlasting allegiance to my tyrant

Published: March 20, 2009
Section: Opinions


The Massachusetts Legislature, no matter how many signatures petitioners have gotten, has constantly rejected a ballot initiative for gay marriage. I share the view of many that in doing this, the legislature is significantly impeding democracy. And that’s great. The Republican Party has been similarly obstructionist in their blocking of the wide variety of bailout measures coming from the President’s desk. And this, while annoying, is also great. Both of these things are great because they show that our political system is somewhat resistant to tyranny.

I consider those who consider democracy to be the shining beacon of human civilization to be not quite cynical enough. They are cynical enough to be suspicious of any one person or group of persons having all the power. There are so many ways to abuse such power; who could be trusted with it? The ardent supporters of democracy lack the requisite imagination to consider the majority. But the common man or woman is just as capable of oppression as a king or a duke or a pontiff. Gay marriage is a perfect example. If tomorrow a ballot initiative were held to either legalize marriages between two men and two women or to constitutionally ban them, the latter would almost definitely be chosen. This is because the majority of people of America at the present have no respect for the rights of the queer community. That’s stupid.

American people are known for being stupid around the world. Now, whether we are actually any dumber than say, Chile is debatable. The point is we aren’t as smart as we could be. We prove this when we talk about how much we hate double-talking politicians and then vote down anyone who gives straight answers. We prove it still when we, despite our sovereign role, are unable to identify even the most basic policies, arguments, countries, and other elements of our domestic and foreign policy. We do all of this because we are too lazy, apathetic, confused, or disheartened by our government to pay attention. In other words, we’re stupid.

And so when I see every side of every debate appealing to the idea of “let’s do what the American people think,” I can’t help but think, why? Would it be so bad for us to consider instead what the right thing to do is? We don’t (or aren’t supposed to) go to the CEOs, the lobbyists, the philanthropists, or anyone else to see what they think. All these people are too obviously self-interested to decide on the welfare of others. The majority is just a larger group of them. The idea (seemingly based on capitalism) that all these people can act in a totally self-interested way and still cause a world of liberty and equality and justice and happiness is naïve and improbable. Remember Winston Churchill’s observation: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” Democracy isn’t perfect. America is not suffering from a run of bad politicians; we are suffering from a run of bad voters, with politicians who enacted their bad wants. We have become so lazy in our thinking that we have limited our political discourse to one question: what do the opinion polls say?