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Letters from Downunder


Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.
(Poe, ‘The Raven’, 1845)

(3/2016) Democracy evolved from the idea that citizens would vote on matters of importance. Not the emperor, king or prince, but the people who would be affected by the rulings. Initially this was the members of senate and the clan or community, as they were considered of equal importance in Greece where it all began, but by the time the practice arrived in Rome lines had been drawn, barring plebeians and non-citizens from voting. The enfranchisement of others – ratepayers, traders, etc progressed slowly, with all the rest being given the vote only in the last 100 years or so. That is, In the Western world - for although the east never really embraced the practice of democracy and voting, most people there seemed to be no worse off than their western cousins.

This notion, the idea of democracy, has now outstripped its usefulness, almost as though it’s an abstract title, yet retaining the suggestion of freedom and justice. The fact that it brings neither should be sobering to a nation that believes in its own fairy stories, but it will continue to be the falsehood it is if you, the good and caring people of that country, decide it is not worth the effort to vote.

Here in Australia we have to vote or be fined, something you are told violates free speech and civil liberties – but if it does, so does paying tax. We all agree that government would be impossible if taxes were not paid, and we here believe that this gives us the right and obligation to vote so that we can have some influence on how are tax dollars are spent. Yet we are in the same predicament as you: Party politics has outstripped honesty and transparency, and, sad to say, has removed morality and ethics from the stage.

We have come to expect slight-of-hand, dishonesty, spin and obfuscation in our politicians, but also believe that we, being part of a civilized nation, have progressed beyond despotism and tyranny. To many of us people matter, and caring about others comes before self-serving indulgence and the exercise of ego. Very few of us would tolerate indiscriminate vengeance or undeclared warfare, both of which are the mantra of your conservative candidates. Listening to those televised ‘debates’ made me shudder. They reminded me of the demon quoted above, dreaming of deeds of evil, remembering the good old days when humans suffered at his whim. They also reminded me of the applause those statements received, suggesting that demonocracy was alive and well, and that decency was dead and buried.

Not just decency, of course. Morality, ethics, humanity, compassion – all have withered away under the scorching views of the right. Too bad if you are poor, coloured, Latino, or strange; and too bad if you are a refugee. America has taken just 2,290, or 0.0005% of the people trying to escape from Syria since the civil war began there. Thirty one governors have stated that such people would not be welcome in their state, seven of the twelve are against them ever coming, three want them ‘paused’. President Obama proposed allowing 10,000 to come in the next 12 months, but congress passed a bill demanding that each one be certified as having no security risk, an impossible task. This, in spite of 90% of all terrorist threats having come from home grown citizens. American aid to Syria is among the highest in the world – four billion to date – but money alone will not solve the problem. Simple humanity will turn the tide. Ohio spent $4.8 million to help refugees settle in the area. Already they have added $48 million to the prosperity of the state. The problem for the GOP seems to be that these refugees are mostly Muslim, and that means they are terrorists. It’s as short-sighted a view as any dictator has. Kill those that you think may not approve of you.

This, I remind you, in a supposedly Christian country. But then nearly 2000 years ago Constantine coined the slogan still favoured by certain Christians who seem to be ensconced in Klan country: ‘In this sign shall ye conquer.’ So Carpet-bombing Christians have a precedent, one it seems they are happy to follow. They have no concept of the peace Jesus said he would leave with us, no thought of turning the other cheek or forgiveness, just a skewed creed of might being right. And no acceptance of even their fellow citizens who dare to practice tolerance and compassion.

America leads the world. Right? Yes, of course – in bloodshed and retaliation, armaments and commercial military might. It must surely come close to last in caring for those suffering from oppression, those who might have looked to you for succor, to the supposed world leader in caring, as epitomised by the statue of liberty. And your pet hate of decades ago, Russia, takes no refugees either, preferring to bomb them also. They are not Christian, officially, but not that much different to you in their care of the oppressed and dispossessed.

I know full well that many of you are distraught at the rise of heartlessness in your land, that you voice your dismay and urge sanity. You have not visited Hypnos, have not met Lethe, and can remember the horrors of Stalin and Hitler. How small a voice, how tiny a flame you hold up to illuminate the demons in the land. May you be victorious in your fight for sense and tolerance, humanity and compassion. There are many here who support you, who also believe in morality and ethics.

In peace and good will,

Lindsay, Down Under

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker