We should be vigilant with what is important to us, including our democracy, and the voice of an individual

In light of what is happening in our government, the College of International Area Studies hosted a “Forum on Democracy.” The forum began with a graduate student speaking out about what he thought about the event. He believed it to be a “liberal” backlash against the Trump administration, and believed that the conversation being starting on democracy was inflammatory and reactionary. He cited titles, referring to them as divisive. His comments, while were completely welcome, confused me. I did not see the forum as reactionary and defensive.

We never want to believe that threats to democracy could never happen here. The United States was founded on the idea of democracy. We have never had a King, and we live in a republic. Professor Mitchell Smith talked about how one of our democratic rights have already begun to be violated. Elected officials are rending citizens voiceless, and many officials are becoming more interesting in wielding power than upholding democracy. He called us to question why Donald Trump really says “fake news.” He wants us to question his agenda, and fight to understand what is truly happening. Dr. Alan McPherson, director for the center of the Americas, he compared the “strong man” persona and personality to that of Donald Trump’s. He outlined the difference between autocracy—non-constitutional change in policy—and populism—acts outside the bonds of democracy resulting in inequality.  He asked us to analyze Trump’s personality. He is charismatic and narcissistic, much like the strong autocrats in Latin America. He seeks the attention of crowds and monopolizes the media. He is a chauvinist and inspires hatred and divides people. Many of his actions including executive orders, questioning the popular vote, and shaming the media reflect a disdain on any checks on his power. Tarren Hircshfield gave us a background on kleptocracy, asking us to be cautious about what might happen in the future. Peter Gries provided a case study on China, asking us to question what role propaganda has and understand the repercussions.

Kyle Harper began the forum with opening statements on what democracy really meant. He started off with the etymology of the word; it means rule by the people. The word is 1000’s of years old with Greek origins and a broad definition. The Greeks believed that democracy was not just a political system. They saw it as a regime, or a way of life that encompassed religion, education, and the military. Kyle Harper’s definition of democracy has three parts: genuine opportunity, respect for the truth, and a sense of community. He emphasized education, especially this university, should stand as an example, a pillar of democracy. Education is important to teaching young minds how to reach their fullest potential and to teach people to think for themselves, and I came to this forum to become more informed because you cannot think for yourself if you do not understand what is happening in the world. Democracy is fragile and crucial; we should always be concerned about our democracy.

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