Nov 20, 2011

How democracy works

On my drive into work last Friday, most of the news centred on the massive “Occupy” marches that happened across the country yesterday. I zoned out a little because I’d heard the same stories last night, and all the facts remained the same – over 100 people arrested in New York, Portland Police using pepper spray on protestors, etc. However, there was one thing that caught my attention, a chant by protesters in LA.

“This is how democracy works.”

For me this encapsulates some of the anger that’s been fermenting among Americans who feel that the system is rigged. From an early age citizens of this country are taught about the value of participatory democracy. These actions include registering as a voter, campaigning for candidates, standing as candidate, attending town hall meetings, etc. This has always been a source of admiration on my part because that’s how democracy works – having an active citizenry.

However, there’s a seedier side to the system with the influence of big money on the local and national level. People are rightfully asking, “if my elected representatives are beholden to big money interests, when does my voice get heard?” Isn’t the point of participating in elections the opportunity to get someone who represents your interests to sit at the table?

And as we continue to see families, schools, and social programmes hurt as the result of this prolonged recession while politicians dither and bicker, it should come as no surprise when people are protesting in the streets calling for a change in the system.

This is a test of the American system, seeing how most of us react to people involved in acts of civil disobedience to get attention drawn to the issues they’re complaining about. And even further, will this spur real change in the system. 


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