By Wesley Carter
“What is democracy?” That is a question that a large number of citizens have been asking these past couple of years.
So much so that democracy has become the most researched word of any others over the same period. There are concerns, as it turns out, about our form of government and the seeming threats, not so much from without, but from within.
But seeking definitions for a word like democracy can prove to be quite a daunting task. Perhaps the reasons lie in the actions of those who have the greater controls. Whatever they do, whether it be of a helpful or of a damaging nature, it will usually be labeled in the name of democracy.
Although one can argue about the many forms that a democracy can take, only two come to mind as being dominant, as well as incongruous.
As regards the first, we say that the right to vote is a constitutional guarantee for all citizens; yet there are those who have devised many means to prevent certain groups from exercising that right.
In addition, and in many critical ways, our nation has been partitioned into red states and blue states with hatreds easily engendered and families often divided and – all in the name of democracy.
However, there is another kind of democracy of which I speak, and it can only be found in the hearts and souls of people who are capable of equating such terms as human rights, freedom and equality with other terms like honesty, integrity and caring.
It was in the hearts and souls of the young and old of all races who suffered (both psychologically and physically) from riding for freedom and voter registration in the South in the 1960s.
It was in the hearts and souls of the many who have sacrificed their lives believing that freedom and equality are democratic rights that should be enjoyed by all.
It is to be found today in those who, despite their misgivings about our political system, refuse to accede to the notion that kindness itself is a weakness; yet accept the reality that it cannot be legislated by laws, or behaviors that are harsh, crude and antipathetic.
But despite all this, I still remain convinced that it’s far too early to carve democracy’s headstone.
It was during the last Christmas holidays, while waiting in my car, that a mother and her son (about 10) were about to get into the car behind me. He stopped and walked up to the window.
When I rolled it down, he handed me a candy cane and said, “this is for you.” Attached to the cane was a printed sign that read, “HAPPY HOLIDAYS – SPREADING ACTS OF KINDNESS.”
Wesley Carter is a former adjunct professor of African-American studies at the University at Buffalo.