As I wrote in an earlier blog, petty tyrants exist everywhere, even at the salad bar. (Blog 5/18/17.) Young, old, dark, fair, tall or short, they hold certain traits in common, according to writer Joshua Kurlantzic. (“Return of the Strongman,” by Joshua Kurlantzic, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 15-21, 2017, pgs. 8-9.) They share “a distaste for working with others and a messianic view of their own powers.” (Ibid pg. 9.)
Sadly, some of these strongmen, once elected to high office, smash the ballot box which gave them power, and anoint themselves dictators. Turkey and the Philippines have recently elected such leaders while Africa and parts of South America have long suffered under similar rule. Left in question is whether or not Donald Trump will join them or be held in check by our Constitution. In any case, Freedom House, the global organization that monitors civil liberties reports that “democracy is in deep trouble worldwide.” (Ibid pg. 9.
The reason democracy is losing favor, particularly among the young, is they have seen representative government become “corrupted by narrow interests and turned into hyperpartisan battlegrounds.” (Ibid pg. 8.) Authoritarianism in the midst of this chaos has appeal. Leaders with strong personalities who promise they will succeed where former institutions have failed give hope, albeit a false one, to those who haven’t lived long enough to know better. (Ibid pg. 8.)
Why strongmen are unable to fulfill their promises flows from their truculence, which they and others mistake for strength. But such showmen rarely excel at compromise. Their posturing, in fact, makes the world less safe. Before we rush to judgement and chuck democracy out the window, let us pause. Are we willing to risk giving control over our lives to the compassion of tyrants? In this instance, I believe conscience should make cowards of us all.
*Since I wrote this blog, I am happy to report the salad dressing wars have been won.