Democratic values have been established in the constitution of many countries in the West. Social norms are the expressive forms of such values. Unfortunately, in recent years, with the rise of populist nationalism, democracy is being contested. A surge in anti-elitism, anti-system, anti-liberalism, anti-immigration is noted. This "anti" movement appeals to ideals and populace grievances that are not necessarily founded on democracy.
Democracy affirms pluralism, liberty, freedom of speech and the value of human life. In essence, a true democratic society upholds equality rights (economic and social opportunities), liberty rights (civic and political participation) and collective rights. Democracy entails civic participation and carries with it the responsibility for upholding human rights, peaceful coexistence, acceptance of differing perspectives and a rejection of prejudice and racism. Democracy also ensures people are granted necessary information throughout the political process to make appropriate decisions affecting their lives and future.
As I read the media, opinion pieces, blogs and social media posts swirling relentlessly after the U.S. election, I noted there is a misunderstanding of what democracy represents. Can we naively think we can “hug it out,” appeal to love and understanding and respect the rights of all peoples (both sides)? I ask; do we respect the rights of ISIS fighters to their ideology? How about the KKK? What are those democratic principles that we uphold in such situations? Whose voice(s) should be heard when it relates to freedom of speech? All? In what circumstances can one group of people limit the fundamental rights of another? Ultimately, what does it mean to be a civilized society? How do we define our social norms that guide the narratives of our lives? Finally, how do we educate for democracy in a new world hardened by racial and economic divides?
We must grapple with many difficult questions rather than provide ignorant “love each other/choose harmony and understanding” platitudes to unprecedented complexities that have the serious potential to undermine basic human rights and freedom. As I wrote before, I reiterate again, civic participation carries with it social responsibility. Let’s make certain we are well educated on the fundamental principles of human and universal rights, as well as the values of democracy. And let's stand and uphold those, even if we should be counter-cultural and stand alone.