Freedom is one of the virtues that are highly valued by humanity. Every person on the face of the earth has a desire to exercise his freedom, with a call for less interference from the outside world. Democratic freedom too remains on top of the list on issues that are mentioned in the current world, especially in the United States of America. It is the dream of every American to exercise democratic freedom in his/her domain. However, despite being the most ‘democratic’ nation in the world, there are political intrigues that have yet again threatened democratic freedom in the United States. Among these threats to smooth flow of democracy is violence.
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There are arguments that violence threatens the advent of freedom in the American society. This argument proposes that violence is caused by different factors in the democratic arena, with Keane (2004) arguing that there are situations that warrant for violence in any democracy while there are other situations that would be termed as violation of the laws when violence is exercised as a way of correcting the paths of democracy. Yet, one factor that can be noted when violence cases are exhibited in an environment that is supposed to be democratic is that violence in most cases is used either to cover up an issue of concern especially on the political arena or it is a way of politicians trying to coerce their way into power. In this regards, it is important to examine the relationship between democracy and violence and what leads to the other in the American society.
The American forefathers fought for independence from the British colonists in order for the United States of America to be able to make decisions as a democratic state and to portray maturity, fairness and freedom in exercising of the democratic rights of every citizen. Nevertheless, more that two centuries later, the democracy of this nation has continued to be threatened by violence, with many happenings that if not checked, would lead America back to the olden days whereby the freedom of making decisions as a nation was determined by another nation that was more powerful than it was. The suggestions that America is a democratic state therefore remain to be a subject of contention in the modern world.
The leadership of the United States of America has been found to be more ignorant of the demands of democracy around the world. This has been especially true when diverting away from critical issues of morality in their judgment either at home or outside its boundaries. From the 1997 movie ‘Wag the Dog’ by directed by Barry Levinson, there is a critical revelation of the political and democratic gimmicks that have been played by the American government for a long time. Just as in some African, Asian and South American states where violence has been used as a way of diverting from the truth and as a way of threatening the true course of democracy in order to satisfy the power hungry, the United States of America has employed the same tactics to divert from being accountable to certain issues in its world of politics. In this movie ‘Wag the Dog’, the US president uses a ‘divert and win’ tactic to flee away from a sexual scandal that involved him and a minor by creating a war in Albania that diverted the attention of the common citizens (Krassner, 2006).
While this may be argued as the imagination of the movie world, it was actually foreplay to what happened a few years later in the Clinton administration that was caught up in a sexual scandal between President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. It suffices to say that, just when the issue of the sexual scandal was nearly to a boiling point, the United States president order an assault on Iraq in what was termed as an accurate action to end the work of the Al Qaeda who are said to have been holding a meeting to discuss the impact of their terrorist attack on the United States Embassy in Kenya and Tanzania (Krassner, 2006). Krassner (2006) argues that this was a tactic that was employed by the United States government to divert attention of the people from the sins that had been committed by President Bill Clinton at that particular time. This also raises eyebrows on the role of the media in propagating democracy.
While the media has been termed as people’s watchdog, it has portrayed the character of a toothless dog that cannot bite. Whereas the government of the United States has been on the forefront in championing for the cause of democracy throughout the world, the media has in most cases failed to bring it to account when it has violated human rights in the name of fighting for democracy. The manipulation of the media has contributed occasionally to not only diversion from critical issues by the government but also violation of human rights. In this regard, the media has found pleasure in circulating violence images and news more than news in any other area (Keane, 2004, p.103).
Democracy has also been found to offer a certain form of freedom that in some cases has threatened the very existence of the government. From the movie ‘Hoffa’ that is based on the true story of Jimmy Hoffa, there is an element of speaking the truth that has resulted in most cases the intervention of the government in order to reduce the pressure that is laid on its policies (Raskin, 1992). On the other hand, there is also an element of misuse of violence as a way of exercising democratic rights. In this particular movie, Jimmy Hoffa uses his powers as a union leader to call for mass action among truck drivers throughout the United States. While he succeeded in bringing people into the streets, the question that needs to be addressed is the place of democracy in negotiations rather than violence in addressing critical issues such as the workers’ rights. On the other hand, it is important to examine whether democracy can be exercised alone in order to make the government to change its policies without mass action that has often resulted into violence (Gallagher, 2008).
Democracy as a form of freedom has also been violated in the past. In the movie Amistad, the democratic rights of the Africa are violated as they are taken on board a ship by Spaniards as slaves. Yet, despite their status as slaves, they work on ways of freeing themselves from this status, an issue that leads to violence on the ship and the killing of the crew with the exception of two who were supposed to lead the ship back to Africa, only to lead it to America, where the slaves were tried (Maslin, 1997).
Despite the United States being a democratic government, this movie portrays an element of betrayal of the democracy that it propagated around the globe. While violence was used as opposed to democracy, this movie reveals that power and greed are some of the enemies of democracy. There was no way these slaves could have negotiated for their way out of the hands of their captors. Therefore, they resulted to violence. Whether this is the type of violence that Keane (2004) refers to as the necessary violence in democracy is a subject of discussion (p.177). However, it is worth to note that even when democracy was given a chance for these slaves to defend themselves, different juries withdrew themselves from the case, citing a total lack of tolerance to slavery, yet failing to stand and prove their position with actions.
While violence has been an enemy of democracy, there are moments when violence has been used as a prerequisite to democracy. This is the case where the relevant authorities have been found to ignore the calls to exercise democracy in a particular environment and instead used dictatorship as a way of making decisions. For example, military interventions by the United States have been used in most cases used to restore order in countries that are deficiency in democracy. An excellent example of such actions is the military assault on the Taliban group in Afghanistan that had caused havoc among people. However, there is a drastic reduction of their influence and democracy is slowly being restored back in this nation.
Violence has been perceived as one of the biggest enemy of democracy in the history of mankind. However, it is important for one to understand that the two are interlinked in that lack of one may lead to the other. For example, in the United States, lack of violence has enabled it to emerge as the most democratic state in the world. However, violence in other parts of the world has been found to destabilize democratic balance and unless there is outside intervention either in form of negotiations or violence such as the use of military, such democracy would be a thing of the past. On the other hand, there are cases of democratic denial that has occurred in countries such as the United States when violence was used as a way of diverting from the truth.
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