While we here in the United States are bombarded daily with smoke screens of a propped up economy and innumerable divisive tactics, two island cultures are putting up the good fight for democracy. Puerto Ricans demonstrated against a corrupt government refusing to implode on itself that must have greatly disappointed real-estate developers standing in the wings. The shadow of the Tiananmen Square massacre looms large over the Hong Kong protestors who knowingly are putting their lives on the line in the island’s fight to preserve the democratic autonomy promised it in its handover to China by Britain.
In the past, islands have been the preservers of culture such as the persistent activity of the monks in Ireland who laboriously copied illuminated manuscripts by hand beginning with the Book of Durrow in the seventh century when Europe was in the Dark Ages, that would be followed by other Medieval Christian artworks such as Carolingan and Byzantine illuminated manuscripts in due course. When Buddhism was persecuted on the Asian mainland in the ninth century, Japan sheltered Buddhist monks and preserved the artifacts of its religion becoming a nation of temples and virtual living museum of Buddhist sutras and art.
Meanwhile here at home, the endangered species act has been lifted so that endangered species could thrive under its protective laws: in my state of New Jersey, no longer sheltering the bald eagle’s nest will give way to the development of farmland for yet another Amazon warehouse. And climate change be damned with the free-for-all gas and oil drilling taking place on public lands. The land of Lady Liberty who has greeted the downtrodden to her shores in the past harboring religious freedom and asylum seekers now is witness to children being separated from the arms of their parents and put into cages—Walls, Walls, Walls.
Unfortunately, we in the states are fed a daily diet of distractions as headliners taking the focus off of ongoing activities that have been eroding democracy before our very eyes: gerrymandering, voting poll purges, voter suppression, Russian election interference, packing of the federal and supreme courts (intentionally not capitalized), and downright obfuscating the wheels of legislation, Muslim bans, vile attacks on elected officials of color, undocumented workers’ raids (who hired them?) in a nation that has permitted the NRA’s buyout of politicians who are now all implicated in the mass murders of innocent babies, children, adults, unarmed black men, women etc. Ironically, these same politicians are the loudest voices in current nationwide “trigger” laws (note the irony) all in the name of the “sanctity” of human life.
The choice is ours: either we continue to be entertained by our many distractions—streaming TV shows, stock market earnings, buying into claims of “fake news” etc. or, we can be witness to the demise of global human rights and the lives of those who will be punished, or murdered, for their “crime” of hope and aspiration in the American dream. Are these democracy’s beacons or are they its last gasps?