“My granddad fought in World War II for democracy! Now get out of my country!” Such a phrase is often exclaimed at the Coachman’s Inn in Cowley (London). Sometimes the words are rearranged. Maybe slurred. But the infliction is always filled with passion, fervour and belligerency. We can argue that the man or woman exclaiming such ignorant vitriol is missing the sense of community which inhibited WWII. The blitz was about how unity and solidarity can help us survive anything, even in the midst of bombardment from weapons of mass destruction. But the statement does bring up an interesting, unintentional, point – should we not celebrate democracy? If our media outlets and governments want to rewrite historical narrative (that we fought for the principles of democracy and not trade interests, fear or anything else) than shouldn’t we have a day of celebration for the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers? Should we not have an international democracy day?
Ideally international democracy day should coincide with general elections, party elections and referendums; giving people a day off to appreciate democracy by participating in the most fundamental act within it: Voting. I mean we have become such a slave to capitalism, that towards the end of the 19th century we introduced Bank Holidays! Yet democracy is never honoured like that. “My granddad didn’t fight in World War II so that banks could strangle our national sovereignty and render us drones to capitalism.” I guess that’s only uttered at a hippy pub, where kush is £2 a hit.
So why doesn’t the United Kingdom and the United States adhere to this plan? I mean they have a monopoly on democratic ethics, right? The answer is simple: governments work hard to suppress the vote. Less people voting means there will be less chance of chaotic voting results. Imagine if all working class people voted in their best interests? Or all racist people voted? Or every person between 18 and 28 voted? That’s unsanctioned change right there. But honestly most people can’t afford to take a day off work and even if they could, their employers are under no obligation to allow them to. This is essentially a form of voter suppression however there are more insidious versions of it.
For example right now the Labour Party (UK) has disqualified people from voting in the party election. They amplified the price of membership from £3 to £25 and barred people who had registered to the party after January the 12th from voting. I voted in the election which installed Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 and I was not eligible for the vote either. This type of voter suppression is disgusting; a spit in the face of democracy and the grandfather’s that died for democracy. Thankfully the decision was overturned but the right wing section of Labour continues to fight against the court’s verdict.
Voter suppression is more intense and institutionalised within American history. We can point to examples like the Three Fifth Compromise, The Suffragette Movement and Gerrymandering in general, that illustrate the rigorous legislative efforts of governments to limit citizens from voting. Senator Bernie Sanders’s has recognised the entrenched injustice ingrained within the American ethos and suggested a national democracy day for states during the primaries as well the general election. Though the likeliness of that legislation being passed is incredibly incongruous. America’s oligarchical system would never permit this kind of ‘political suicide’.
Our politicians gain political points when they illustrate their patriotism in the face of antithetical ideologies. Yet when it comes to standing up and celebrating our democracy in a substantive way they start to cramp up. We teach Science as a core subject in the UK but we don’t teach politics? Our children and their children need to realise the oppressive regime that is limiting their future and to see through politician’s collusion with hypocrisy. Maybe then our collective grandfathers can rest in peace.