Americans Must Rise Up Now, Just Like People In Lebanon & France

Lessons in Democracy, from Beirut to Paris

By: Michael Howard

We, the American people, should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. Corporate culture and fake partisan politics have succeeded in reducing us to docile, helpless little sheep—shells of citizens ripe for pocket-picking by our moneyed masters. As I read news of the democratic movements dotting the globe, it dawns on me that we truly don’t have any idea what’s good for us, let alone how to go about getting it. We once had men and women like Thomas Paine, David Thoreau, Helen Keller, W.E.B. Du Bois, Eugene Debs, Jack London, Mary Jones, Huey Long—not to mention all those anonymous, forgotten souls that lived and died to improve conditions for themselves and the generations to come. We’ve let them down.

What is it that renders Americans so useless? Are our ruling elite really so cunning and efficient, so exceptional, at diverting us from our own lives? Perhaps. In addition to the traditional metaphoric forms of capitalist opium—“news,” patriotism, trashy entertainment, needless products, religious and political tribalism—they’re now feeding us literal opium: just short of 70,000 Americans killed themselves with drugs last year. Is it that we’ve been spoiled by our national privilege and lack of major conflict (we have never been invaded)? Or are Americans just lazier and dumber than average by nature? Whatever the answer, it’s clear we’re lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to striking back against our oppressors.

With no modern day Daniel Shays in sight, we must now turn abroad for inspiration and lessons on what democracy looks like, not in theory but in practice. We can start with Lebanon. Demanding nothing short of revolution, the people of this fine nation, ravaged as it has been by external forces, have been turning out in droves to take back what belongs to them—namely, their country. And they’re making headway. The streets of Beirut are choked with protesters (who Prime Minister Hariri has wisely declined to characterize as “rioters”); banks and businesses and schools are closed. In response the government proposed a number of reforms, including more public spending to address poverty, increased housing loans and bigger taxes on bank profits. It also offered to cut politicians’ salaries by as much as half.

That’s not half bad. But it’s not enough for the people, whose movement is picking up steam every day. They want the government dissolved and new elections held. One teacher told AP: “We are remaining in the streets, we don’t believe a single word [Hariri] said.” In chorus the protesters chanted: “We want the fall of the regime.” Good on them. When popular uprisings of this sort flare up, the state reacts in one of two ways: brutality and murder, or conciliatory gestures meant to weather the storm until it blows over. The people of Iraq are currently dealing with the former reaction; this is apparently of no interest to the Western press, who worked themselves into a sweat when a single Hong Konger was shot by police after more than six months of continuous protests. Meanwhile, one-hundred Iraqis were killed by security forces in five days, and hardly a peep out of the Washington Post, New York Times, and the others.

Nor were these outlets very bothered as French police brutalized the Yellow Vest demonstrators on a daily basis over the course of several months, shooting out eyes and blowing off hands, among other horrors. Like the Lebanese, the disaffected French were unimpressed with Macron’s olive branch, and his approval rating currently hovers in the low thirties—the center cannot and will not hold.

The movements just mentioned (yes, even Hong Kong) are all engendered by the same issues: government corruption, abuse of power, and social inequality. In no developed country are these problems more glaring than the United States, where the top one percent of the population own more wealth than the bottom ninety percent and real wages for working people reached their climax in 1973. Half a million Americans are without homes; twelve million children don’t have enough food to eat. And all of this that Wall Street may continue to prosper. The American political system—I won’t use the word democracy, for which people like Hamilton and Madison had only disdain—is one of unalloyed bribery. Our “representatives” barely even pretend otherwise at this point. It’s simply understood and/or ignored: the outcomes, or rather the whole framework, of our elections are dictated by corporate power. The people have no say. Billionaires donate extravagant sums to political campaigns, determine which candidates are viable (or “electable”) and which are not, and then extract favors from presidents and lawmakers once they’re in office. Favors for the rich mean attacks on the poor. How, for example, do you think the Republicans plan to fund their tax cuts for the rich? By cutting social spending, of course.

So what are Americans doing about it? Taking to the streets en masse to demand, as the Lebanese are, a new system of government? Not at all. We take refuge in our digital bubbles where we rant and rave about Trump’s latest vulgarism, or Putin’s nonexistent influence on our politics, or the fact that we have colleges named after men who owned slaves. Or, if we’re feeling really rambunctious, we don our pussy caps and wander aimlessly through the streets decrying the president’s sexism. That’s all well and good—misogyny is nothing to brook—but what were the specific demands of the Women’s March? What did it aim to accomplish? What did it accomplish? I suppose it made its participants feel as though they were democracy personified, democracy in action, the same way most Americans feel when they walk into a voting booth and cast a ballot for a politician with plans to sell them down the river just as soon as they’re elected.

But maybe such people deserve a pass. After all, to do anything more, as the people of Lebanon and Iraq and France and Hong Kong are doing, as the people of Nicaragua and Venezuela and Cuba did before them, would be un-American. That’s what we’re brought up in our schools to believe—the notion is hammered home throughout our lives by the mass media and both political parties, who invariably serve private, never public, interests. In one sense they’re right: as I said, the authors of our Republic, with few exceptions, had no intention of ever adopting a system of representative democracy. Read the Federalist Papers; read the Constitution itself (we don’t even have the right to vote for the President of the United States). But—but—there’s also that saintly document known as the Declaration of Independence, the one every American schoolchild learns to revere as soon as he or she is able to read. And what does that eloquent text state? Only this (italics are mine):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Revolution is as American as, well, the Declaration of Independence. High time we remembered that, and rose up.


About the Author:


Michael Howard is a writer and teacher living in Vietnam. Contact him at [email protected]. Read more articles by Michael here.


This article (Americans Must Rise up Now, Just Like People in Lebanon and France) was originally created and published by American Herald Tribune and is republished here with permission and attribution to author Michael Howard and website



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1 Comment on Americans Must Rise Up Now, Just Like People In Lebanon & France

  1. “end Human bankruptcy” an idea whose time has come.The Search for Truth and Transparencies continue…The Revolution has Begun.Join us in our Search.

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