Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/22/2009 [Archive]

A Shout for Democracy

A Shout for Democracy

By Martha Randolph Carr

Sometimes other countries look at America and mistake how we practice capitalism with the ideal of democracy. They call for our demise based on the former, which is a business model, even while they're lunging toward the latter, which is a much bigger dream. Take Iran, for example, which recently had presidential elections with a disputed outcome.

Now, no one is going to argue that either candidate is a friend of the United States. In fact, just implying that someone in Iran has had a brief chat with President Obama is a good way to get the crowds on their side. Obama has to be careful about every syllable that leaves his mouth so as not to affect the outcome. We are still the bogeyman of Iranian politics.

However, despite news blackouts, beatings, arrests and threats of even harsher consequences the crowds continue to swell. Photos are still getting out that show upraised fists wearing the green wristband of the opposition. The people in the streets are now being counted in the millions and they are all shouting, 'Where's my vote?' That's democracy in action.

Whether the citizens of Iran like it or not, a lot of their determination about self-rule and the sanctity of an individual's vote comes from the two hundred plus history of the United States. Before the American Revolution, which was the most radical political revolution ever seen, there was no ongoing example of a successful democracy in which each citizen had an equal share of the power.

No one expected the grand experiment to succeed. Monarchies were still the longest-running form of government and based on experience the other nations expected the founding fathers to eventually give in to greed and try to grab power for themselves and their heirs.

Not only did Washington, Jefferson and Adams listen to their better angels, succeeding generations have somehow managed to keep holding up the Constitution and Bill of Rights as the ideal and moving toward them.

We may make mistakes but we keep going back to our roots to reset and try again. That's what other countries, like Iran keep missing. We are an experiment in action with a grounding set of standards written at the outset.

Capitalism in America is a completely different story. It's a good business model but we have practiced it by giving most of the benefits to the fewest number of citizens. The exact opposite of how we govern ourselves. That's the conundrum that confuses other nations. But America holds life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as valuable. How we make a buck is not on the list.

The blow out on Wall Street this past year has changed a lot of people's perspective on capitalism, including lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The reckless greed that unleashed the Great Recession has us once again pondering regulations and oversight. At least for awhile it's going to be tougher to quickly make vast fortunes that exist only on paper. Investors will once again insist on an actual product and a balance sheet.

However, what comes next is where the two ideas of democracy and capitalism occasionally meet. Citizens who have lost most of their possessions, whether it was through their own hubris or not, kept their right to vote and will get the opportunity to begin again. Democracy offers a blank slate and a chance to fail as much as to succeed without losing a say in how it all happens.

Iran is pouring into the streets demanding democracy and whether or not they follow it up with a system of capitalism is beside the point. They are demanding to decide for themselves.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Martha can be found on Twitter at MarthaRandolph or email at Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2009 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com. Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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