• Sona Chaturvedi

American Denial

Our democracy has never been so fragile.

Image Credit: Javier Zarrachina/Vox.

We are in a constant state of turmoil. In fact, we now have a significant percentage of Americans who no longer believe in our representative form of government at all. Chaos is everywhere we look, and we’re constantly playing catch up from one disaster to the next. We no longer have two political parties, just one. Democrats. Republicans are no longer part of American democracy. They are authoritarians. That’s what they want for this nation. There is no state of calm in the country unless you are among the class of citizens who are American deniers. There have always been those who look the other way, or those who don’t want to engage in our obvious flaws. They ignore the abject racism, classism, misogyny and the indisputable climate change threatening our existence. However, even in this moment of earth-shattering pandemonium, a number of Americans refuse to acknowledge that we are at the tipping point of our entire country crumbling and descending into tyranny. They hypothesize that, yes, we are going through a difficult period, but we have been there before and came out on top. They are under the impression that if they keep their heads down and work hard, we will continue as one the world’s superpowers. They aren’t the cultish crowd that supports QAnon or Donald Trump. They are the people that ignore everything unpleasant around them as it disrupts their American-dream façade. They bought the lie. This psychological response to disarray isn’t new. Ancient Romans took their republic for granted, and quite a few didn’t see the end coming at all. We are no different than them or any other nation that boldly declares themselves exceptional, deludes its citizens into believing it to be true, and convinces themselves nothing can destroy it. This is false and it’s dangerous. “The drift into authoritarianism doesn’t always set off alarm bells,” argues Steven Levitsky, co-author of How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future. “Citizens are often slow to realize that their democracy is being dismantled even as it happens before their eyes.” It’s happening right now. “Democratic governments have existed for more than 2,500 years, but most democracies have failed to survive more than a generation,” according to Edward Watts of the Hartford Courant. This failure can be traced to a number of factors, but one defining characteristic is when strongmen take over during eras of political gridlock. Watts continues: “As Americans living through the past 25 years know well, citizens of representative democracies are less easily roused to defend against the slow erosion of political norms. Americans have seen government shutdowns become political tools, and the confirmation of judges routinely blocked. None of these things were normal a generation ago.” This is how corruption overtakes the psyche of the voter. It’s the degradation of norms that becomes commonplace. Actions that would have been considered ludicrous in the past become part of Washington as usual. Except it’s not. None of this is normal, and it most certainly won’t sustain a democracy. Yet, we feel drained. We are tired and feel as if we are screaming into a void. It’s tempting to give up the fight, update your passport and start researching where you will flee. This is where complacency plays the most important role. It’s exhausting to keep up with the constant noise. Especially when, by design, people are exhausted with their careers, healthcare, taking care of their children, and all the other responsibilities that come with American life. However, If we don’t want to enter a “dark age,” we cannot remain complacent or in denial any longer. Our democracy needs help. This is crucial. We must push our fellow citizens, the ones that still believe in democracy, to become actively involved. We must keep encouraging grassroots politicians to fight for what’s right. We must make the calls and urge the government to push forward our agenda and engage overseas voters. Run for office or volunteer to be a poll worker. These are now considered dangerous occupations. However, we must get out of our comfort zones. The alternative will be worse than anyone can imagine, and no one but the protected few will be safe in an autocracy. The only other option is to flee and watch our democracy crumble. The choice is ours.