by Aubrey L. Hicks, Executive Director, Bedrosian Center
Democracy isn’t a state of being, it is a process. To be democratic, to live in democracy, is to participate boldly with our neighbors in governance.
What we saw this week is evidence of anti-democratic movements across the country. Dr. Erroll Southers, Director of the Safe Communities Institute here at Price, has been working for years to highlight the threat of homegrown violent extremism. His work and the work of others within the school show how disinformation can worm its way into the lives of people who have real (and imagined) grievances within our borders.
These grievances can easily escalate toward violence when triggered. This can happen in the matter of minutes, hours, or over decades. Shrewd politicians use these grievances to implore voters to the polls or, in extreme cases, radicalize crowds toward violence.
We hope for politicians who can work with policy experts to identify grievances in order to offer thoughtful solutions.
Conservative and liberal Americans are not enemies. So, we must do more to de-radicalize the many Americans who have bought into that very idea. Politics is the act of collaborative decision making, as a former Bedrosian Center director was fond of saying.
Where do we go from here?
First, we seek to understand. To understand political power, voter preference, radicalization, to understand what it means to be part of community, to be a participant in democratic action, to be a citizen of this great nation. This means reaching out to determine what are valid grievances, to make them known, and work toward positive communal policies to address them.
One thing we hope in this new year is for each of you to strive for an open mind, seek to understand. Be open to the pain of others, be vulnerable with the pain you carry, be vulnerable with the pain you may cause, be vulnerable to the lessons learned, learn from leaders who strive to build people up, lift up those around you, learn from neighbors who have lived different lives than yours; be a good neighbor.
We are in a time of great change and great turmoil. We also live in a time of great possibility. Let’s take as many moments that we can in the coming year to seek to understand, to work toward the better union for which our founders laid the groundwork.
We really are all in this together. Until we decide to be better neighbors to each other, we will fail the democratic experiment that is these United States.