"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch." - Ben Franklin
Sometimes I hear folks equate America and liberty and fairness with Democracy. America is something more than majority rule, however, and a brief glance at history and a look at the track record of mob rule shows why this is important. One can imagine how most of the folks of Salem, Massachusetts would have voted during the witch trials as they singled out the neighbors that they held personal grudges with, and of course the majority votes in Germany in the 1930s showed how easily a majority would oppress a minority if given a nudge through the state sponsored press and helped along behind the scenes with clever censorship and intimidation.
As the quote attributed to Ben Franklin illustrates, the majority can itself be a terrible oppression. This wasn't lost on the Founders, and certainly not on Patrick Henry who was one of the most vocal advocates for a Bill of Rights. The idea was that there were certain rights that all Americans had, which would be a red line in the sand that was not to be crossed by anybody in government, to include during times when backed by even a democratic majority.
It's not difficult to understand how a state that controls the message, and that operates the strings of mass media behind a curtain, can manufacture consent and give the illusion of a democratic process. Even the most transparently authoritative societies around the world, typically have employed a "democratic" component to provide some measure of legitimacy to a foregone conclusion. Perhaps most famously, the German fascist himself was well known for promising, in his public speeches, to keep with the constitutional processes of Germany. Indeed, he knew such was required to steer the herd publicly and also that such lies would play into his image around the world, and most importantly, in Britain and America. Hitler was a master of placing supporters in various crowds around Germany and Prussia, to incite a mob or to make a speech that could be quoted in his own fascist media as illustrative of the mind of the majority. Despite his promises to be fair and democratic in public, as an insecure fascist bent on controlling the message and above all the results, he broke each of his promises from the shadows and took steps to ensure the majority would proclaim what he wished them to.
In America, the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights attempted to combat this weakness of human nature. Free speech, of course, was enshrined in the very first of those amendments, along with the freedom to worship and freedom of the press. The majority, real or otherwise, and the ruling class never have any reason to fear and suppress simple speech and a differing perspective, unless they are up to no good. Certainly the suppression of speech in an arena that allows that speech to be challenged by other speech and logic and cited facts, is the ultimate sign of insecurity, weakness, and a shady intent to control. Likewise, other amendments were also red lines in the sand not to be infringed by anybody, majority or not. The Second Amendment comes to mind and those who are familiar with the quote attributed to Franklin, are no doubt familiar with the rest of it. "Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is yet another such inalienable right.
Still, this same speech suppressing maneuvering is evident today. The previous presidential election made it very clear that the media was not at all adverse to demonizing a candidate as "crazy" or "kooky", and then by denying that candidate serious coverage. The mainstream media has been guilty of shaping the message during our electoral process, rather than simply reporting on it. Perhaps the only good result in the most recent election was the comedic criticism it evoked from Jon Stewart as he pointed out this fact. Even more recently, critics have discussed the problem with the reported NSA warrantless spying on American citizens, and have highlighted that the program is done in secret, but that when challenged in court by the ACLU, the government maintained the ACLU had no standing because they could not prove that they had been spied upon. The common thread is a manipulation behind a curtain to prevent a transparent fact based discussion. Fascists know that a free discussion must be quelled at all costs, and in their message-controlling actions they unwittingly admit their wrongdoing. It's the classic fascist tell. If they really thought they were correct, they would welcome the open discussion and the chance to put concerns at rest.
It's important for people, if they are to value America, to understand that our nation is more than a simple democracy. Rights were enshrined to protect even the minority of one, from a majority that is either manipulated and manufactured by a small man behind a curtain, or from an actual majority filled with the ignorant and hate filled mob.
These rights are non-negotiable and they are vital to a free society, a lesson that seems to be increasingly lost throughout both government and the mob given current events. It's incumbent on all of us who care about our country, and certainly the future of our children, to get back into the vault and figure it out. Especially those of us who have lived quite some time, and yet have never understood the country we were lucky enough to live in.
We are losing these rights, because we do not truly value the principles that gave birth to such rights. This is something all good Americans should endeavor to correct at every opportunity.