DEMOCRACY vs. AUTOCRACY ~ History ~ Chapter 2024 ~ In Surround Sound and High Definition

Each of us did not play a role in the volumes of past historical chapters recounting the history of the world and humanity. We first connect to the annals of history by what we learn through our family social-cultural trees. The trees that we create on poster boards during our elementary school years and tell our fellow students about our roots. Some of those trees are full of legacy fruit, while others are scarce. Anecdotes are shared during bedside stories about the people in our past who mattered – history lessons by way of the oral tradition.

As we move on in age and grade, history lessons turn systemic with official names and dates. Books share documented findings, unearthed stories and counterstories and yet, we are left with daunting questions.

Along the learning curve, we emphasize our American history – who we have been as Americans. This is when the story telling can get somewhat dicy, cloudy and contentious.

History is not just about the stories that favor our present identity or affinity groups. History, by its nature is highly diverse, inclusive and equitable in its pursuit of the truth. But history has always left its telling to us. Human stories told by human beings.

History for professional historians is an intellectual enterprise and discipline. But all of us are not trained history researchers and scholars. We are amateurs at best, left to discern historical credibility.

Hopefully the history we learn is transparent, credible, verifiable and based on the pursuit of the truth without radicalizing and politicizing historical reality. History should not be fictionalized. The romanticization of the past does not serve the truth of the past.

The good, bad and in between of the past happened in real time and terms. Therefore, history depends on the veracity, emotional intelligence and the moral courage of the story tellers – from family members as nurturers and educators as mentors of the truth.

Therefore, history challenges us as human beings, to remain justly responsible and to fully represent all of the stories, not just some – without capricious revisions, prejudices and biases.

Blossoming students and adults learning about the history of their citizenry deserve and depend on the veracity and inclusivity of the knowledge being presented to them. An essential characteristic of history is that it does not exclude, but amplifies the human story without exceptions.

The social-cultural way by which we learn history differs for each of us. We live in a society where the subject of history can differ from school district to school district, from classroom to classroom – from teacher to teacher.

History books are often written by authors who did not live in the era they write about, or never experienced the events, nor interviewed the protagonists. They write and interpret while viewing the world through their identity lenses as armchair quarterbacks from the distance of geography, influences of social/cultural environments, and differing languages.

This is why it is crucial to focus on the substantiation, validation and interpretations of how historical figures and events are viewed, and hopefully, always under critical lenses to ascertain the truth.

Some historians emphasize that, in the forefront of the critical review of history, is the study of the motivation and reasoning that resulted in the choices that human beings made that ruptured and altered the history of other human beings.

Colonization, appropriation of lands, and nation building are a few examples. More horrific examples are slavery, genocide and cultural/ethnic/political/religious cleansing. Lest we forget, that for every historical monument proclaiming historical heroism, there are countless numbers of unmarked and unnamed graves.

This of course brings to bear the question of whether we can learn from those motivations, reasons, and decisions, thereby avoiding the same mistakes and consequences.

But there are times when we can literally hear and see history unfolding in the present tense, in surround sound and high definition – in other words – in the now – and in the raw.

These are times when CNN, FOX NEWS and MSNBC ride the roller coaster of discovery with us, trying to harness “Breaking History.” Each network making choices on how to report reality and the truth. We can fact check from minute to minute, from narrative to narrative, from cable network host to host and their contributors.

But is it left up to us to scrub the talking points. It is up to us to listen to the language and its intent. It is up to us to demand respect for our intelligence and reject being baited and trolled.

Do we take the veracity of the language of the narrator for granted as the truth? Do we seek validation and credibility? Is the oral bibliography of the narrative dependable and reliable?

What is the quality of knowledge being shared? Are we being disrespected by unlettered fifth grade language? Are we listening to lazy opinions, innuendoes, rumors, whispers, tittle-tattle, implications, assumptions, leading and loaded questions meant to spin and lead us to pre-ordained responses?

Or worse, do we listen with the intention of confirming our absolute perspectives and predispositions? Do we shut down when asked to lean into the discomfort of truths that expose contrived misinformation and deception?

These are times when we can break away from isolated self segregation and oppression. We can at least, for a few precious moments, exhale from manufactured noises.

We can dare to look beyond ourselves with reason and notice stark differences between the reality of how other people in the world are living their lives and dealing with their reality – their unfolding history, their current events and their interpretation of truth.

We may not be history majors, but we see in 2023 the unfolding history – the locations – Russia, Ukraine, Belarus along with the names of the actors – Vladimir Putin (can serve as president until 2036), Alexander Lukashenko (in power since 1994), Yevgeney Prigozhin (Russian oligarch, mercenary chief, leader of Wagner Group Militia, wanted by FBI for conspiracy to interfere with US political electoral processes in the 2016 presidential election favoring candidate Donald Trump). We see the thousands of Ukrainian citizens – children victimized and slaughtered. We see the people responsible.

We have a front row seat witnessing crimes against humanity. We even have heard and seen who among our political leaders have an affinity, relationship with such authoritarians, viewing them as credible and successful strong men.

We are now living in full view and definition of what an Autocracy looks like outside of America. We can compare and contrast, in real time and in real terms, that living in a Democracy versus an Autocracy is fundamentally, organically and profoundly different and a choice that must be owned by the people.

But how does all of this relate to our social-cultural-political reality? In what direction are we trending regarding moving towards an Autocracy or continuing to refine our Democracy? What are the forces that are trying to dismantle the norms, values and principles of Democracy in America? Do we dare to objectively and realistically own the truth?

From my perspective, the most emphatic question in the forthcoming election is whether each of us, as citizens and human beings, want to live with the Autocracy of Republican Trumpism or our founding Democracy.

In a Democracy we have choices on how we view our citizenry and humanity. We do not bow down or curtsy to a majesty. There are no rings or asses to kiss. But rather the people and rule of law is ever present and not in the hands of a few. Everyone is equal and responsible under the rule of law.

Yes, Democracy is highly complex and dynamic requiring advocacy and involvement. The greater good and enhancing the quality of lives of all citizens is always at its core. The key word is ALL rather than some.


There is a constant tension in a Democracy – a push and pull among all constituencies. Liberals, conservatives, independents, along with affinity groups, sitting at the table of discourse and debate on how best to arrive at consensus and fruition.

There are constant critical questions requiring attention. Can Capitalism within a Democracy find common moral ground? Can special interest groups relent and make concessions? Can we become a more tolerant, empathetic and sympathetic society? Can we value and recognize the identity and dignity of other human beings who differ from us? Do we respect, revere and protect the earth and its environment?

Under what ideology and under what leadership do citizens role up their sleeves to continue to solve the complex problems of the 21st century?

I posit that all too often Democracy is taken for granted. We tend to believe that it is guaranteed and protected. We tend to think that someone else will be doing the work for us. We let our guard down, relax and find ourselves not recognizing misinformation, blatant lies, extremism, bitterness, hate and vileness being promoted by a minority that is bent on dissolving democratic values, norms and principles.

Since 2016, history tells us that American Democracy has been under attack, figuratively and literally. The forces of Autocracy are persistent with the intent to achieve power and its absolute control. But let’s be clear – history can’t vote. It can only provide awareness, comprehension, teach, forewarn and even heal.

What I find most enticing, rewarding and hopeful, is that history awakes each day, along with each of us, and remains present throughout the day providing each of us with our story to voice to each other and future generations. History is waiting for us in 2024 and far beyond . . .

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