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Commentary: The Evolution of Democracy

By Gary Earl Ross

Buffalo, NY – Much has been made of President George W. Bush's faith as a fundamentalist Christian. In Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward notes that Bush appeals to a higher father than the first President Bush. Also, the Chief Executive's faith has been examined in a public television special. In the America envisioned by Founding Fathers who separated church from state, religion is not a pivotal part of government policy but can influence those who establish policy. In the case of George W. Bush, faith is at least partly responsible for the quagmire that is Iraq.

As a fundamentalist, Bush believes in the Biblical account of creation. His administration's mishandling of scientific information, particularly its notorious twisting of research data to meet the neoconservative political agenda, is an indication of his lack of trust in science. One would hardly expect him to put faith in evolution. Unfortunately, evolution doesn't care whether it is believed in. It just marches along, an unstoppable force that can't be seen from the inside. Evolution is the problem with Iraq.

George Bush is what might be called a political creationist. As scientific creationists embrace pseudoscience to support religion, political creationists believe political ideas from one culture can be imposed on another. History is rife with such arrogance. Ancient Rome forced its psychopathology on those it conquered. Likewise, the British carried their ridiculous class system into their colonies. Cultures that try to spread their worldview are convinced of the rightness of their perceptions. So is Bush.

The President believes democracy will take hold in Iraq because he says it will. He is trying to create it when it must evolve. The proposed Iraqi constitution guarantees ethnic and religious freedom and women's rights. It took the United States nearly two centuries to end slavery, guarantee women the right to vote, and end racial discrimination officially. Our Constitution still lacks an Equal Rights Amendment for women but may soon have an Unequal Rights Amendment for gays. Religious freedom faces its greatest challenges from forces that insist America is a Christian nation.

The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the American labor movement, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, Brown v. the Board of Education, the Civil, Women's, and Gay Rights movements all are part of our evolution as a free society. If our democracy is a constantly evolving beast, alternately snarling and blubbering, how can we hope to impose it on Iraq? Like all things, democracy will come in its time. Consider the Internet in China, all the satellite dishes in Saudia Arabia, or the Iranian movements for a more liberal society. Despite the reluctance of rulers to permit change, change is coming because spreading ideas will take hold and grow.

We can no more make an instant democracy than we can make a Triple Crown winner out of a mule. It is the seventh day, Mr. President, but I'm afraid your ill-planned attempt at creating a world will give you no rest. Let Iraq evolve and bring our children home.

Listener-Commentator Gary Earl Ross is a professor at the U-B Educational Opportunity Center and the father of a son stationed overseas. Gary Earl Ross is a professor at the UB Educational Opportunity Center and the father of a son stationed overseas.