Democracy presents an interesting dilemma. There needs to be a degree of social harmony to facilitate the peaceful transfer of power from one party to the other after elections. Simultaneously, we need to have vigorous ideological debates about how to achieve the common good, which is what a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ should ultimately work towards
The question of how to balance these two competing interests is the critical issue of our times and it depends on several elements.
The greatest tonic for an ailing democracy seems to be increased participation. If people are averse to the political process and complain that “it’s too divisive,” then they leave it to those who are more fervent (extreme) to decide the outcome for everyone. If only a few percent choose the candidates on the ballots through primaries and fewer than half of voting-age adults participate then that does not present a dissection of the nation. Study after study has shown that increased participation leads to more compromise and working across the aisle… and that turns out to be good for everyone, not just the select few.
In a survey published this fall, More in Common found that two-thirds of the electorate is ‘exhausted’ by the current political atmosphere and wants elected officials to find more ways to work together. That is understandable. A normal society thrives on compromise. Look at families, schools, workplaces, and public spaces. Without cooperation, none of those societal elements would work. Compromise is such a fundamental principle in human interactions that people are generally good at making concessions in their daily lives. The sentiment should seep into public policy and yet it only happens when more people participate in the political process.
Belief in Democracy
Of course, participation is predicated on a belief in the core principles of democracy. We, the people, need to accept responsibility for self-governance and work towards the common good. When citizens feel alienated, it makes it easier for them to write off democratic principles as humbug and choose something different. As I write in my upcoming book, Co-Human Harmony:
"If a group of citizens decides that ‘it’s our way or the highway’ then the results are discontent and turmoil. Such unrest can lead to violence and that opens the door for rule through brute force. Historically, we’ve seen examples of this in dictatorships and during the rise of fascist governments, where social unrest has become so great that the people are no longer trusted to rule themselves. Benjamin Franklin pertinently wrote that:
Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
Against Policies Not People
In his book on nonviolent resistance, Gandhi wrote about the significance of never hating the doer, only resisting the act. He said that we should always allow for the possibility of personal redemption.
When people are fearful, they naturally respond with irritation, anger, and eventually hate. But responding to hate with hate only makes the situation worse. Hate creates ‘the other’ and when ‘the other’ (which is also a human being) has been successfully demonized and made out to be the enemy, when harsh rhetoric and threats of violence have become commonplace, then the fundamental democratic principles of peaceful transfer of power are under threat. At a difficult time in history, Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans that:
“A house divided cannot stand.”
Today, we need to be reminded of that again and again and again. We, the people, who believe in self-governance, must do our civic duty and vote. Concurrently, we must never forget that this Republic was founded on the principles of compromise, which is the very reason for two houses of Congress and three branches of government.
We Will Continue to Build Bridges
Harmony Interfaith Initiative is not a political organization, but we care about society. Our values are clear. We stand for creating better relationships between people of strong opposing beliefs.
Being a bridge-building organization, we don’t take a public stance for or against specific individuals or political parties. That would defeat the purpose. Rather, based on the arguments we have presented, we ask that people participate in the process and that means voting.
We will continue to work towards social harmony by connecting people through their shared humanity. We believe that, in the long run, it is the only way to build bridges between those who have strong opposing beliefs, be they religious, political, or personal. We are committed to this process and hope that you will join us.
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Bridge Building and Social Harmony
We are an educational and social good interfaith organization. We envision a world where people have access to strategies, methods and ideas that promote social harmony and enable bridge building across divides. To us, interfaith means the continual improvement of interrelations between people who strongly believe in different worldviews.
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©Harmony Interfaith Initiative
Registered in Hays County, Texas
Founded in 2018
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