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Though well known to some and little known by many, Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy has served as a handbook for pro-democracy advocates throughout the world. It is not an academic treatise on the whys and wherefores of this or that dictatorship; rather it is a straightforward, 100-page manual for formulating the strategies and choosing the tactics needed to bring down dictators, complete with an appendix listing 198 concrete actions available to do just that. Donald Trump is no dictator. He is a demagogue.
In the toxic political environment of the US, love is an act of protest. At least, that is what Dr. Martin Luther King, whose 88th birthday we celebrate Monday, said in many ways. As just one example, he wrote in his book Strength to Love, "Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
It is an undeniable fact that with the upcoming inauguration, Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. Yet a part of me refuses to accept that reality. On the one hand, I love this country for its freedom and democracy, and as part of my love greatly respect the office of the presidency. On the other, it seems to me that Trump is doing great damage to the core values and institutions that make this country great. I thus find myself at odds with myself, and out of step with the major forces in the political arena -- a weird American in Trump's America.
As the pendulum swings in a politically polarized and disillusioned electorate, many Americans yearn for a reliable and firm foundation for governance of the nation. Each January, we have an opportunity to remember the prophetic wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and consider his words and actions as a beacon across our conflicted landscape. In the last 15 months of life, King spoke repeatedly about war and the role of the US in the world. His words on war are often forgotten in an effort to sterilize and domesticate his legacy. One of his major addresses was in Los Angeles in February 1967.
Meryl Streep's denunciation of Donald Trump at the 2017 Golden Globes focused on his mockery of a disabled reporter, and provoked a Twitter reaction from Trump to the "over-rated" actress: "For the 100th time, I never 'mocked' a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him "groveling" when he totally changed a 16-year-old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!" But it's Trump, not the media, who was being dishonest. Trump was willing to lie over and over again in an attempt to pretend that he had never done this.
A crisis persists across the nation. Public higher education funding in Oregon, as well as in other states, remains low. Dismayed university presidents reacted to Gov. Kate Brown's proposed 2017-19 budget for its flat fundingof the prior biennium's $667.3 million. In their January letter to the governor, the presidents warned that unless the Legislature improves her budget by an additional $100 million, students will face tuition hikes. They wrote: "To keep tuition increases below 5 percent at most universities, and also preserve current financial aid and student support services, state investment in the Public University Support Fund (PUSF) will need to increase by at least $100 million above the Governor's Budget."
I've noticed members of the Christian left trying to redefine the evangelical church. I have also noticed that the Christian left never seems to gain any traction. They publish one book after another, they speak up and speak out, but they simply can't change the conversation. The best evidence was the Christian evangelicals' 80 percent support for Donald Trump. That's unity in a voting block like no other. I'm not sure any Democrat stood a chance against that kind of number. In fact, for 40 years, the Christian right has dominated the political landscape and taken control of the Christian voice.
On January 1, 2017, the Mexican government issued a 20 percent increase in gas prices as a result of President Enrique Peña Nieto's efforts to deregulate the petroleum industry. Protests quickly erupted all over Mexico, with demonstrators blocking highways and confronting police. In Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, protesters blocked the train tracks near the Arizona-Sonora border, stopping international trade. On Sunday, January 8, 2017, hundreds of people showed up neardowntown Nogales, and after some protesters began throwing rocks at riot police, the police responded by firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Civilian control of the military is a long-established hallmark of democratic governance. It clearly can exist without democracy, but democracy -- as the embodiment of popular sovereignty -- can't exist without it. The Trump presidency ahead promises -- perhaps counterintuitively, perhaps not -- to be a crucible that will test the limits and lengths of civilian control in this country as never before in recent memory. The result could well be a fundamental redefinition of the concept as we have come to know it: that of a deferential military dutifully executing direction from civilian authority without visible resistance, without itself becoming a threat -- real or perceived -- to those in power.
The 2010 Supreme Court ruling Citizens United v FEC with its brilliant if disingenuous moniker, has become the whipping boy for a covert, decades-old effort to convert American democracy into a political marketplace. A leaked memo from 1971 illustrates how Justice Lewis Powell laid the groundwork that may mark the end of the American Experiment in self-government. "There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide." There is a real "pick me up" from our second President, John Adams. No one wants to believe such a dire prediction, but it is rare that democracies last more than 200 years.