Hello To Pakistan

Hello again to my new friends at The Pakistani Spectator –

I have been asked to write a few words about your very crucial election there on the 18th of February. This is, of course, a very difficult assignment for me, in that I know next to nothing about Pakistan’s internal affairs or of your complicated political scene. I also feel that about the last thing you need right now is anyone from America chiming in with their opinions about your complex country or your present elections. So I just won’t talk about any of that.

But perhaps I can talk about what we say to each other about our own election process, and about this volatile and contentious system, we share called Democracy. Here’s what we tell each other:

First of all, get out there and vote. If you don’t vote then you don’t have any right to complain about how things are being run. You’ve chosen to opt-out of the system, so your complaints no longer have validity. Also, if your candidate or your party loses an election — and someone always does — then learn to live with it. That’s democracy in action. Learn from your defeat. Learn what it is about your message that just isn’t resonating with enough people, or is perhaps being totally rejected. But as much as you might disagree with the results of the election, they do after all hopefully represent the voice of the people and you must honour that voice. And we must then put aside our partisan differences and all work together as the UNITED States of America.

Well, it sounds good, doesn’t it?

But, as any of you who have been following American politics lately well know, these ideals are seldom attained. Bitter political feuds still go on, political rivalries still continue and losers seldom just give up their battles and accept defeat graciously and quietly exit the stage.

But, nonetheless, these are our cherished ideals. And despite the fact that we seldom adhere to them, seldom get it completely right, and that nasty partisan wrangling goes on and on and becomes more and more vocal –

OUR DEMOCRACY THRIVES. It works. Cumbersome as it is, as contentious as it can be, it works. There are no coups, no bloody uprisings, no revolutions — not yet, anyway. But there is a lot of angry debates and passionate arguments. And that, it seems, is what it’s all about.

To a lot of us here, our democratic process is similar in a lot of ways to our jury system. It’s not perfect. There are loopholes and flaws. Sometimes guilty people get away with murder, and sometimes the innocent suffer. Sometimes corruption and greed are busy at work behind the scenes, and sometimes we can get quite cynical and discouraged about these flagrant abuses of this system of ours.

But, despite it obvious shortcomings, it is still simply the best system out there. It is the best system yet devised to attempt to build a just society. And, somehow, it seems to work.

And this, my new friends, is how I feel about democracy.

Don’t lose hope. Don’t allow those inevitable abuses of the system to destroy the system. In short, participate and vote.

And this particular American wishes you great success in your democratic elections; may the results bring you closer to national — and international peace and harmony.