Thursday, June 21, 2012

democracy is ugly


as an american, it shouldn't surprise me that democracy is ugly, i have but to harken back to the 2000 election and the hanging chads and the wrong guy ending up sitting in the oval office, book held upside down, reading to small florida children on september 11. but aside from eating pickled eggs in a dingy bar in wagner, south dakota while my dad campaigned for the state legislature as a child, i've not really been that involved in democracy first hand (other than as a chicago voter, where it's a tradition to vote as many times as you want). by which i'm trying to say that i've never run for office.

so it was a bit of an experience last week when i presented myself as a candidate for a new board that will create a new "culture house" here in the little town where i live. the new board was created at a public meeting, where the by-laws that are to govern it were read and approved by those assembled. after the by-laws were approved by the assembly of interested local citizens, paper was handed around and everyone could nominate the candidates they wished to be on the board. then, all of the names were put up in a powerpoint and the people who were present got the chance to say whether they wanted to be on the board or not. a good 30+ names were on the list and after people had had their say, it was whittled down to ten. with a board consisting of 7 people and 2 alternates, this meant that nearly everyone who wanted to be on the board would be, in fact, only one person would be left out.

everyone who remained got a chance to stand up, introduce themselves to the assembled 75 people and give a little campaign speech. i went 3rd to last and will admit my heart was pounding by the time it was my turn. not only did i have to suddenly speak in front of 74 people, only a handful of which i knew, but i had to do so in a language not my own. i probably made some small mistakes (those et/en are impossible in danish), but i felt i conveyed what i wanted to say with a sufficient level of charm. and i must have, because i was elected - in fact, when they announced the results, they read my name first, which was nice, because then there was no waiting on pins and needles to see if i had been chosen. (oh, the horror of rejection!)

but throughout the evening, as points were debated during the reading (and adjusting) of the by-laws, i observed that when it comes down to it, people are actually pretty pissy about democracy. those in the majority are impatient with the petty concerns of the minority and the minority are grumbling aloud that they're not really being heard.

as you all know, earlier this year, i joined the local group that plans the activities and events that are going on in the local culture house. i did so because i want there to be stuff going on in my local community. no less than 5 members of this group presented themselves for election (including myself) that evening. two of them had been part of the planning all along and had been part of writing the preliminary by-laws. i had been asked by several different parties before the meeting to present myself as a candidate and the other two just volunteered that evening, out of interest.

as it happened, myself and the two who had been involved were elected. one of the other two became an alternate and the last one was the lone person not elected that evening. this leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who were ostensibly the losers. they feel that democracy failed them - they're looking for ways in which the election wasn't fair. there were even tears. and one decided to pack his toys and go home - leaving the activity-planning group as well after not being selected for the new group.

which leaves me feeling that people ultimately don't trust the democratic system. it was in place, it functioned, people ran,  people won and people lost. and the losers looked for some way in which it wasn't fair and the cards were stacked against them. they didn't use the opportunity to reflect, they just cried and quit (respectively). they didn't at all let the light of democracy shine on them and say, "hmm, why was it that i wasn't chosen?" which leads me back to the notion that democracy is basically an ugly thing.

8 comments:

celkalee said...

By the time I reached this certain age I felt that most topics and issues would certainly be sorted into black and white. Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true, mostly everything is gray. This leads to the political hornets nest of democracy versus representative republic. A subject for another day.

Democracy in the context of your election rather reminds me choosing up teams for dodge ball. (now mostly banned in schools in the US because it is violent, partisan, unfair) This person is p---ed because he/she was not chosen for this team or that. And lets face it, somebody and eventually everybody is going to get wacked by the ball.

Hopefully, your contributions will energize and stretch the others a bit. Democracy is not a bad thing, just a wee bit messy.

Glo said...

Democracy is not ugly. People are ugly, or better put, behaved in an ugly and bratty way.

Sammi said...

Ugly isn't the word I'd use. Harsh perhaps.

I can understand why the person involved would be upset having been in from the beginning and then being the sole person not to be elected. maybe in time they will think about why they weren't elected, but right not they're probably licking their wounds.

i guess everyone else just didn't think that person was the right candidate so they chose those they thought were best. so, i guess it is just harsh, like the truth sometimes.

Bill said...

Democracy has become the crumbs swept off the banquet tables of power brokers.

julochka said...

it was just sour grapes, but it did strike me that the democratic process didn't make anyone happy

julochka said...

true enough. especially in this case. seriously ugly behavior.

julochka said...

sadly, I doubt these people will reflect at all on their loss.

julochka said...

also on the local level?