Ava Barker , Grade 11 , Morgan Park Academy
Democracy is a system where the people's voices are heard no matter their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. In a democratic system, everyone has a right to speak their mind and support their beliefs. Democracy is based on the concept that the majority of the people decide who the elected officials are and those officials are required to act in the best interest of their constituents.
I live in America and I have had to push all preconceived notions about democracy to the side. There are different forms of democracy such as Direct, Social, Parliamentary etc., all which citizens have the right to vote and decide who their leaders of government will be. Sure it has its flaws but would you rather live in a country with a complete authoritarian rule or a democratic system of government? Most of us would say yes, and so would the people who don’t live in a democratic system. After learning about the different systems of government, I wouldn’t choose to live in another system except for a democratic one.
Democracy originates from the people meaning the power lies within the people. Democracy gives power to the people, allowing them to voice their opinions and concerns which can change policies and elect lawmakers. Democracy limits the amount of power that leaders of the government posses through checks and balances, ensuring the greater good is protected over personal gain. Elections ensure that the people have a voice for who their leaders are and have a say in the political process.
There are countries in the world that have not adopted democratic governing due to corruption, cultural, or religious beliefs. These countries tend to be an autocratic or dictatorships. Non-democratic countries deny basic fundamental rights to citizens. For example, the right to vote, freedom of speech, religion and due process.
In the modern world, some countries that embrace an undemocratic political system have experienced chaos and disaster. For example, in 1989, students and workers protested the repressive government of China in Tiananmen Square only days after the death of Hu Yaobang. Hu Yaobang supported moving the Chinese government towards a more open and democratic system. Grieving students took to the streets to protest the existing communist government, demanding the change that Hu Yaobang embodied. The protests occurred over weeks and at one point the crowd swelled to one million protestors. Eventually, the government took control and sent in military forces killing an unknown amount of protestors. To this day, there is no official death toll from the number of casualties inflicted by the military intervention. The military intervention brutally quashed the hope for a more democratic system. Ultimately, the Chinese government did not change or move toward a more open and democratic system.
In the same year as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were captured and killed on Christmas day by their own people. They were fed up with his tyrannical dictatorship. Ceausescu was in power for 25 years as a communist dictator. During his rule, a majority of Romanians were impoverished and overworked. After the death of Ceausescu, Romania adopted more democratic policies and slowly the economy became better and people were able to gain fundamental rights. Unlike the massacre in Tiananmen Square, the Romanians were able to overthrow the government and successfully move towards a democratic society.
20 years later there is a similar pattern where people become unsatisfied with their undemocratic governments. The many protests that occurred throughout North Africa and several Arab countries in 2010 and 2011 became known as the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a vegetable vendor set himself on fire in protest against an unresponsive government. This dramatic event sparked protests throughout the region in hopes to overthrow their autocratic governments. Due to social media, countries like Yemen, Egypt, and Libya were able to pressure their dictators to step down. However, in some countries, conditions worsened and allowed fundamentalist groups like ISIS to take over in countries like Syria. The Arab Spring caused the region to become more unstable with terrorist groups like ISIS.
Of course, as I make these points I understand that America is not a perfect democratic society. America was built on the idea that everyone is created equal. However, well into the 19th century, people of color and women were not allowed to vote. Today, citizens of Puerto Rico, Guam and felons do not have the freedom to vote. Although they are considered citizens, they have no say in who is elected to represent them in government. Some would argue that the electoral college doesn’t accurately reflect the will of the people. In an equal democracy, one person equals one vote instead of how the electoral college is run. America is a flawed democracy working towards becoming a more perfect system.
One of the most recent issues in the news in voter suppression, where lawmakers are making it harder for blacks, Hispanics, Asians, people with disabilities, the homeless, the elderly and Native Americans to vote. In North Dakota, the largest minority is Native Americans and right before the midterms lawmakers required proof of street address in order to vote excluding Native Americans to be able to participate in elections. Native Americans rely heavily on PO boxes which make it harder for them to show proof of address.
In my personal view, I would much rather live in a democratic society than under a dictatorship. Although I live in a country that has a ways to go until it becomes a completely fair and equal democracy, I am able to work on helping move the country to become more democratic. By working to end voter suppression and put an end to the electoral college, I can help America move towards a more perfect democracy. So to answer the question is it important to live in a democratic society, I would say yes. After learning about the numerous revolts against non-democratic systems in countries through the past century, I believe people prefer to live in a democratic system where they have the rights to exercise their freedom of speech and the right to vote.