My definition of ‘democracy’ and how to expand it

By Barry Farber

For me it was the dullest day of World War II.

As a super-patriotic pre-teenager I wanted to hear about all the Pacific islands we had taken back from the Japanese and how many of their airplanes we’d shot down, and how many Russian villages had been retaken from the Nazis and how many hundreds of thousands of Italian soldiers had come over to fight on our side. And all the man on the radio talked about seemed to be irrelevant and out of place. The newscasters sounded just as excited as usual even though the big news of that day had nothing to do with the war. At least that’s the way it seemed to me.

All the excitement that day in 1943 was merely because our allies, the Russians, had announced their decision to dissolve the Soviet Comintern. I had never heard of the Comintern, but my father explained that Comintern meant the Communist International, the organization founded by Lenin 1919 to advocate for worldwide communism. Although its dissolution was a move that meant the Soviets would no longer try to convert the rest of the world to communism, it still struck me as a meaningless bummer of a news story, and I could not understand why so many people were so excited.

It’s no longer the early 1940s, and now I’m finally excited. Everybody knew the Soviet originators of communism were promising to quit trying to spread that unfortunate doctrine around the world, a promise that never quite found expression in the real world. But all of a sudden now I think it’s time to revisit and revitalize that Comintern story, but with a decidedly different twist. How about we organize a Demintern, an open, above-board organization dedicated to defending democracy wherever democracy is threatened and introducing democracy to unfortunate populations who’ve never had the pleasure?

Some rules for living in this world have hardened. They are bad rules. Why not change them? Up to now the “rulebook” demanded that a democracy sit there, enjoying life, until the aggressor’s appetite threatens it. At that point the aggressor locks the democracy in its cross-hairs, and the democracy goes frantically looking for strong countries that are not aggressors to come to its aid. However, there aren’t enough of those strong countries that don’t seek to enslave their weaker democratic neighbors.

NATO has done a magnificent job of deterring Moscow’s aggression. But NATO is strictly defensive. Why not organize a Demintern – a “Democracy International” to do as much for democracy around the world as the old Soviet Comintern sought to do for communism?

By the way, I’m no longer going to fight those scholars who reproach me in shock and horror, insisting, “America is not a democracy. We’re a representative republic!” You nitpickers know damn well what I mean. Any country where you can tell the top guy to go to hell and live to brag about it is, by me, a democracy!

The modern world offers a witches’ brew in a Brunswick stew of ways to deter aggression short of military action. Look at the effect of sanctions today. A well-organized Demintern would offer all kinds of ways to make the bad-guys tired of aggressing. And activists of all kinds continue to show us new ways of slapping political bubble gum into the hair of would-be aggressors.

Unfortunately, some of the best methods – boycotts, disinvestments etc. –are being mobilized against Israel, the only democracy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Pacific Ocean! Those are the right tactics directed at the wrong target! Everything from discouraging tourists from visiting the bad-guy lands clear down to personal letters written to friends in the bad-guy lands and clear back up again to damaging business in the bad-guy lands should be folded into the arsenal of the good-guys and used when and where needed.

A veteran senator once told a journalist, “The average American has no idea how effective one single letter can be to a senator, a congressman, a chief of state or anybody who wields authority. I don’t mean these mass mailings that are the obvious result of an organized campaign,” the senator continued. “I mean the opinion of a thoughtful citizen who cares enough to sit down and write.”

The bad-guys have no difficulty giving the world a clenched fist. Notice how Russia and China are rushing to the rescue of this obviously incompetent former bus driver, the Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro. Apologies in advance to all bus drivers, past and present. I solemnly swear that any one of you could do a better job running Venezuela than Maduro. While the aggressors test their missiles, let the moral power of those fortunate enough to inhabit democracies make their footprint seen and felt!

The world is always ready for some good-ol’ anti-dictator jokes. A sample: Dictator Maduro, traveling through the Venezuelan countryside on a blistering hot afternoon, stops to take a refreshing dip in a lake. Suddenly, he realizes he’s in over his head and cries out for help. A 14-year-old boy hears his cries, dives in and rescues Maduro. Gasping for breath on the shore, Maduro says “Young man, thank you for your bravery and skill. What shall your reward be? A bicycle, a motorcycle, a million pesos in pre-inflation money?”

The young man said, “Sir, I must demand something much more valuable for my effort. Please grant me a favor that will save my life.”

“Name it and it shall be yours,” said the grateful Maduro. “What is it you wish?”

“Thank you, sir,” replied the young lad. “Just promise me you won’t tell my father that I saved Nicolas Maduro from drowning!”

Leave a Comment