I woke up today to news of Libya. People are demonstrating in the streets of that country just as a few weeks ago they risked their lives on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria. Earlier people had laid their lives on the line to topple the government of Tunisia. In Bahrain and Yemen governments have unleashed the military or thugs (or both) on protesters. Doctors and nurses attempting to care for the injured have been assaulted for doing so. Libyan officials in other countries are resigning their positions. Members of the Libyan military have defected.
Everywhere people are demanding more rights and fighting to protect the rights they have.
Except, it seems, in the United States. In many other countries dictatorial governments are being opposed by protesters who are willing to put their lives on the line for sake of a better life for their fellow citizens. In the United States many citizens have stood by, grumbling perhaps but not really protesting, while their government has become more and more the protector of corporations, institutions and movements that are not friendly to interests of the average American.
The rights of women have been under attack in the United States for many years now. It matters little if a woman has the vote if she has no opportunity to vote someone who will represent her interests. The Republicans have seized upon the current economic conditions to find excuses to underfund and defund organizations and agencies that serve women. The Democrats seldom draw a line in the sand in response to such attempts.Women's rights are, apparently, always negotiable. Thus women's rights are by definition not rights at all but privileges since an inalienable right is not something that can be put up for compromise.
Republicans cannot get up and say "we do not think women are really people" and they cannot (yet) get up and say "we don't think women should have the same rights as men." They can however strip legislative and fiscal support from every group that provides support for women. And the women cannot fight back even at the ballot box since the Democratic party will gladly take a woman's vote but will seldom support a woman where it might cost them the vote of a bigot or a sexist.
In an earlier post I wrote
If the powers that be wish to successfully to carve away at the rights of the public in general the best place to start is with the rights of women.What seemed like an overstatement a short time ago now begins to look prescient for today when I woke up I saw that the governor of Wisconsin still plans to strip from citizens of his state their rights to collectively bargain. The governments of the United States do not fear the people in the streets. They do not worry about large numbers of protesters flooding the streets to protect their own rights. They worry little that a sufficient number Americans might take to the streets to support the rights of other Americans.
Democracy is struggling to be born in the streets of Egypt and Yeman and Tunisia and Bahrain and Libya.
Democratically elected representatives are negotiating away the rights of their constituents in the United States.
And this is the way American Democracy will end; not with a bang but a whimper.