From The Asian Reporter, V27, #9 (May 1, 2017), page 6.
Democracy here and now
Democracy means so many things. Democracy means one thing in, say, the
Democratic Peopleís Republic of Korea, while democracy demands a world of
difference for folks in the Federal Republic of Germany. Likewise for us living
here and now. Sure, we share the same generous continent, but because weíre so
many kinds of Americans, our work is weaving our many differences in ideals, in
aches and appetites.
The rub of our differences is good for democracy. The expectation of
important differences then their delightful blending, are essential to healthy
governance. According to international research on this, on humankindís
never-ending experiment, institutionalizing kindness and creativity are at the
core of our pretty little planetís best democratic unions.
Tests of democracy ó loud protests, agitated press, crazy elections ó are
regular and necessary. Often provoking enormous anxieties. Take last yearís U.S.
national election. Candidates for the presidency and for congress always grab at
big themes, competitors overstate differences so each can cut dramatic
distinctions between themselves and their opponents. Lots of theater.
Candidates for local office are usually more pragmatic. Local voters are too.
Local democracy, particularly non-political party seats, functions best when
campaigns offer practical problem-solving skills. Whatís more, local competitors
and voters alike know they still have to be neighbors after election day.
Civility is central. Community building trumps ugly politics.
We are in one of those local election cycles right now. Lots of school
boards, water district and recreation district boards, will soon be filled in
middle May, many with a lot of different, but all dutiful, local volunteers.
Portland Community Collegeís Board of Directors is among these. And among the
candidates for a seat is Mohamed Alyajouri.
Why this means so much
Mohamed Alyajouriís candidacy is evidence of our metro areaís political
maturity. Our high level of democracy. Heís a Corvallis High grad. He brings an
OSU public-health degree and a health administration masterís degree to whatever
he does. Mohamedís day job is integrating public-health services, improving
family outcomes, and sharpening delivery efficiencies all over Oregon, including
Washington and Multnomah counties. Mohamed and Kamili, a Nike professional,
raise three bright and beautiful sons.
Mohamedís supporters mention his skills, his connectivity, and his record of
community commitment ó the unavoidable glare of his name notwithstanding. Thatís
two checked boxes on the advanced democracy scorecard. Two big markers of a
vibrant, diverse community moving forward together.
While his backers will surely set out the specific skills heíll bring to
Portland Community College, if you persist, each will just as certainly add
their concerns about how erosive last yearís shrill national elections were to
our most fundamental notions of democracy. And how contrary all that is to the
community-building role of the PCC Board of Directors.
Which brings us to where this essay began: Democracy may mean many-many
things, but among our precious planetís best democracies, voters and leaders
expect their many individual and communal differences to be engaged in building
a bigger us. A better us. Our metropolitan areaís 2017 Special Election Votersí
Pamphlet is full of all that.
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