Quote of the Week: To learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize. –Voltaire
As an American citizen, I have a strong appreciation for the First Amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing our rights to free speech, and the freedoms of religion, press, and assembly; as well as the less-cited right to petition the government for redress of grievances. All of these rights work together in harmony to allow us the right to criticize whomever we please – in theory. Obviously, the Constitution was never purported to be a perfect document; and there are glaring omissions from the point of view of modern society. For example, major corporations were beyond the imagination of the framers of the Constitution; and so corporate powers over individuals, communities, and even our government specifically are completely unrestrained by any line of the Constitution.
In fact, every grouping of people outside of the government proper has the power to restrict rights of all people joining those groups (besides often working to limit rights of others outside the group). Churches can require members to follow religious rules; families, companies, and other groups can control speech as rigidly as they please; and so forth. While the Constitution protects rights to criticize other groups, we are losing the fight within groups. This becomes evident as political divisiveness and the vitriol of rhetoric separate factions within political parties as deeply as they separate the parties themselves. As Democratic and Republican campaigns for the nomination to the presidency heat up, invective not only between but also within the campaigns is also heating up. There is an ever-increasing expectation of ideological conformity within the campaigns. Trump supporters (the trumpenproletariat) become ever more shrill in favor of their candidate, and eat each other alive when any of them expresses doubt or recognizes a flaw in their candidate. The supporters of other campaigns do the same. As a Clinton supporter myself, I have received the most vicious criticisms on Facebook from fellow Clinton supporters (whenever reflecting on weaknesses, like her Wall Street connections and her Iraq vote), while Sanders supporters and Republicans have been far less nasty. While some members of both parties’ campaigns complain about attacks by other candidates from the same party, I have seen fierce expectations of conformity within the members of several individual campaigns.
This bipartisan expectation of conformity is troubling indeed. It demonstrates that whatever the Constitution says, we are not allowed to criticize those very individuals asking us for our vote and purporting to represent our interests and views. That is not a foundation of democracy; that is a weakness that can potentially undermine our democracy. None of our candidates are perfect (if you will excuse the understatement); and we must express our doubts not only about those we are fighting against, but of those for whom we are fighting. If we do not, the very point of this fighting is lost.
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