So I definitely hardly ever get political, especially on the internet, but I thought this was worth sharing (and if any of you feel inclined to respond, please do in a civil way; I’m not looking for a debate). But today in my Blount class we discussed deToqueville who came from France to observe American democracy in the 1830s. He was a major fan of democracy and social equality, things he couldn’t find in France (or anywhere in Europe) at the time. But he also believed democracy had one major weakness: the tyranny of the majority.
He believed the power of the a majority is more dangerous than the power held by an absolute monarch. Why? Because a monarch can take away people’s lands and throw them in jail, but can have no direct effect on people’s minds and spirits. The opinion of the majority on the other hand, cannot take land or throw people in jail, but it can dramatically affect the way people think. He said that a majority opinion is taken as truth in America and that it is not to be challenged. He went so far as to say that there is no freedom of speech in America because of this.
I realize this is a drastic opinion and I am not saying I fully agree with him, but I have to admit, he’s got a point. While I know Americans are extremely fortunate to have the rights that we do, especially freedom of speech, I do believe that those rights can sometimes be limited due to the majority.
What makes me say this more than anything is the response I’ve been seeing to the Coca-Cola Superbowl commercial (I’ll link it if you haven’t seen it). As soon as it aired I said, “I like that a lot,” but I knew people would get mad. A lot of people are upset that such an American song is sung in different languages in the commercial. Some people are upset by the images of people of multiple ethnicities that are shown. They are also upset that a family with gay parents are shown. To that, I ask, why?
Are you upset that the majority was not the only angle represented in the ad? So what if the song was sung in different languages? English isn’t the only language spoken by Americans. So what if multiple races of people were shown? Not every American is white. So what a couple that is homosexual was represented? Not every American is straight.
We also covered Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” in class today. In it, he claims that America is everyone within it, whether people be white, black Indian, or anything else. We are all equal in this country.
And I have to agree. While I’ve always loved Whitman, studying his works today in the midst of this controversy made me admire him all the more. An American is American, no matter what. One’s first language, ethnicity, or sexual orientation does not make them any less of a citizen, just like it doesn’t make them any less of a person. So why should they receive less respect just because they’re not a member of the majority?