- The inability of certain legislators to stand up and oppose unethical, illicit or illegal behavior of the Executive, or of their colleagues. As we speak, there are sexual predators in the Congress who are known by other members and staff. Still they remain anonymous because other members will not condemn them. Why? Because they fear retribution? Because they are too powerful to challenge? Because whistle-blowers could lose their jobs? Or is the silence part of an unwritten pact between colleagues? Probably all of the above. But, the silence undoubtedly goes much deeper than that because male dominance in this society would be in danger if women were believed when they say they were sexually abused or harassed. A change that fundamental could threaten the myth of male superiority, thus threatening a multitude of behaviors, myths, stereotypes and beliefs. Allow me to mention just a few:
- Marriage as the ’giving’ of a female child by one man (the father) to another man (the groom), by which transaction a pattern of superiority, control or power is passed from one male to another. It is a ritual that encompasses many social remnants of male dominance: the concepts of the wife “obeying” or of the male as “Head of household” remain in some marriage ceremonies. However, such ancient symbols have also been removed by denominations or religions that have recognized their significance.
- The taking of the husband’s name by the wife is a symbol that still prevails, although slightly challenged by a hyphen linking last names of both partners.
- The mythical concept of the woman victim as the one at fault in a case of sexual misconduct by a man is engrained in societal folklore to the extent that it pervades even our justice system. It is based on ancient myths, folklore and stereotypes that the woman is some sort of siren who entices a male by her “wiles” – which the dictionary defines as “a deceitful artifice” or a “beguiling or coquettish trick.” Thereby, the woman accuser is made into some sort of magician or, more likely, a “witch” with a magical power that cannot be resisted by a man. Her clothes, her appearance, her gestures, perhaps her words are made out to be seductive, and the resulting sexual encounter is therefore the ‘fault’ of the accuser.
- “His word against hers” is a false standard that gives the male the edge every time, as the stereotype of male power and superiority is automatically accepted by most people, including too many women jurors. When some women defer to a husband by saying “my husband says” there is, indubitably, a hint of acceptance on the part of the wife that what her husband says carries more weight than what she might aver on her own. Such ingrained acceptance of cultural norms or myths overarches gender, just as any bias can do.
- Another overlooked but important undermining of our constitutional principles is the inability of voters to withdraw their support of such behavior and policies. Voters and non-voters are contributing in a big way to the destruction of our democracy. How?
- Acceptance of lies and propaganda leads to a society that becomes unstable because it has no core – no center – on which citizens can depend.
- One of the most important building blocks of our democracy is ‘representation.’ And, representation is necessarily based on the foundation of trust. Trust that the representative will care what happens to you. Trust, that your representative will not only provide factual information, but that s/he will put principle above ideology or politics (“do what is right”). Trust, that the Representative will make sure that constituents are not harmed by abusive or politically-motivated legislation. Trust, that citizens will have every opportunity to be heard and to be taken seriously. Trust, that the representative will act to keep his/her oath of office. Trust that truth will be honored in all dealings with voters and constituents.
- Acceptance of unethical, immoral and anti-social behavior tends to infect the society, and bring about a milieu in which destructive behaviors and actions are more generally viewed as acceptable, leading to a society that is based on harm, hurt, competition, and violence rather than on caring, healing, opportunity and the building of a diverse but unified community.
- Another building-block of democracy is, of course, elections. Not only is it important to have honest, dedicated, competent candidates, it is also imperative to have a process that is fair, equal and open for voters of all persuasions and circumstances. Restricting the voter franchise is a danger sign for our democracy and our society. In the current atmosphere, we are in imminent danger of this right being undermined and limited. Acceptance of imposed restrictions, and acceptance of unequal access to the voting apparatus is another danger sign, not only for our democracy but for our entire society that has begun to accept authoritarian rule as the norm, and inequality as the result.
- Moreover, acceptance of inequality in terms of the weight given to different cohorts, individuals, or organizations is equivalent to cheating. PACs, Super-PACs, and unrestricted inducements of private wealth are all threats to our democracy. We cannot survive as a democracy under the current weighting of votes, buying of votes and restrictions on voters.
- In addition, when Party ideology becomes all-important and trumps what is best for the country, and what is right for all, there arises a threat recognized at the very beginning of our country’s independent existence. President Washington spoke about this in his Farewell Address and minced no words.
“Washington recognizes that it is natural for people to organize and operate within groups such as political parties, but he also argues that every government has recognized political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power than other groups and to take revenge on political opponents. He feels that disagreements between political parties weakens the government.