Column: Democracy: tool of oppression

By David Solana

Nepal’s King Gyanendra dissolved his government Tuesday, accusing it of failing “to make necessary arrangements to hold elections by April and protect democracy, the sovereignty of the people and life and property.” This is the second time he has sacked the government, having already done it in 2002 for its failure to contain a Maoist insurgency. His first actions were to cut all phone lines, halt international flights in the capital, Kathmandu, place members of the now-defunct government under house arrest and censor the press.

Ironically, this story, reported by the BBC, was published simultaneously with a survey showing half of the 100,000 U.S. high school students surveyed believe newspapers should be prohibited from publishing anything that has not been approved by the government. The survey goes on to report two-thirds of the respondents think it’s illegal to burn an American flag, half think the government can censor the Internet and more than one-third think our first amendment “goes too far” in protecting our rights to free speech, press, worship and assembly.

It would be nice to think these students are in high school, perhaps sarcastic and hopefully just mischief-makers who wanted to fool with our minds, but that probably is not the safest course of action after examining the sorry state of our education system.

My high school was considered pretty good. My parents moved into their house based on its affiliation with the high school. Yet, we were not required to take civics, any classes relating to non-Western modes of thought or courses that stretched beyond the scope of white America. My elementary school began every day with the Pledge of Allegiance – pretty standard – and one of several patriotic songs – great for helping us love the United States. We regularly watched space shuttle launches. The experience was the stereotypical brainwashing, but it’s not something you’re bound to notice as a 10-year-old or as a parent who grew up inhaling Cold War propaganda.

Among the many priorities governments have, the non-publicized but supremely important self-preservation priority is the root of much corruption. The founding fathers themselves did not imagine a nation of people in line to lick Uncle Sam’s boots. Thomas Jefferson himself wrote about the need for patriots to use violent force to preserve their liberties from being squandered by their own government: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

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    The system of government we employ in America is apparently so good at this, a large number of our future work force – today’s high school students – believe the press should be under the heel of the government. They should learn from the plight of the Nepalis, who are now departing the world of the free for a safety of ignorance – a state-controlled media that will of course do no less than reassure the populace that nothing is amiss.

    The problem with our system is not just the government, but the general complacency of the population and their ability to dictate the government’s actions. This cycle is a very tough one to break because we are trained so well to love our government that it becomes impossible for a politician to make a run at high office on a campaign of massive reform.

    Democracy has become a dangerous tool in this country, and its effects will probably become increasingly more stifling. The only saving grace we’re looking at is a possible economic collapse at which point our lives are no longer so cushy that it isn’t worth our while to fight the government to take back our rights. Thus, we see that rights, which can seem overbearing, are really put into the Constitution with our personal liberties and protections at heart.