However we may choose to view them— as slave holding villains or heroic visionaries, or a mix of the two— the framers of the U.S. Constitution understood the immutable human tendency to abuse power. Looking back at models of governance throughout world history, the conclusion the founding fathers arrived at was this: Humans cannot be trusted with unchecked power. In response, and borrowing from the old world, as well as from the Iroquois Confederacy on Turtle Island, they created a government in which a system of checks and balances would theoretically restrain abuses of power. They decided Democracy in America should, for the most part, be transparent. That its representatives would be chosen by free and fair elections. That these representatives could be voted out of office. That they would be subject to the rule of law. That they could and would be held accountable if they abused their power.

The rule of law, as it applies to elected officials, presently sits suspended in limbo as we wait for the January 6 Committee to take any action against elected officials. Yet the American carceral system, for everyone else, is enforced mercilessly. The United States represents just 4.2% of global population, but holds approximately 20% of all the worlds prisoners. Of these 2.12 million incarcerated people, nearly half a million sit in pretrial detention, not convicted of the crime for which they were charged and arrested. Within the walls of U.S. detention centers, these nearly five-hundred thousand people who are presumed innocent, are subject to violence from other prisoners and staff, sexual abuse including rape, denial of mental health and medical care, and solitary confinement. To date, according to, 2,740 have died from the deadly disease while incarcerated. So much for the right to due process, or the presumption of innocence.

The criminal justice system in America is the single greatest agent of morally reprehensible, grotesque abuse of power on earth. And people of color are vastly overrepresented in its institutions. Our government is responsible for the rape, torture, and murder of its own citizens every minute of every day. Increasingly this is profit driven.

The American ideal was always that those who abused their power could be stopped. But can they? Though at the time, only white, landowning men could even access this power, the idea could be applied to any person of any gender, race, religion or sexual orientation, who abused their power. We may not be able to give them credit for extending the rights of white male landowners to everyone else, but the principal holds. Humans of any race, religion, gender, sexual orientation will abuse their power if given the opportunity. Transparent democracy with accountability remains the best system of governance developed so far. Not so if it is broken.

Now here in the 21st century, we see that our democracy is in a sad, sick, and sorry state. Some even say it’s in its death throws. And while we see evidence of its brokenness every day, we also see its citizenry bitterly divided along party and ideological lines. Each pointing fingers at the other side. If anti-democratic devils exist, they are certainly happy at the sight of us now.  

The ideological wars today are broadly framed as conservative versus liberal. And at their extremes we see the lines drawn even more crudely: White, straight, Christian people are bad. And, as the long-oppressed classes, people of color and members of the LGBTQ communities, and Muslims are not. 

But every tribe, nation, people, and social group of any kind, has abused its power. Yes, even us indigenous folk are guilty. One could draw at random, from labels of any social group of all time, and accurately write volumes on the evils they have perpetrated.   

To be sure, wealthy white men have long held the top spot as abusers of their power in this nation and all over the world.  Indigenous peoples everywhere can painfully attest to this fact. The effects of oppression based on race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation are as undeniable they are ubiquitous. But this does not negate the framer’s understanding of humanity; it confirms it.

Representative democracy with accountability addresses the political divide in that it assigns blame to the entire species and NOT to any social group, race, or party of any kind. Specific populations may have their own unique style of how they oppress, harm, get things wrong. But so long as the population is human, it will, when no one is watching, or if there is no accountability, get things terribly wrong.

Toxic machismo by males, which often culminates in murderous violence is very real. So is the staggering capacity for emotional cruelty inflicted by women and members of the LGBTQ communities, mainly against each other. In the age of social media our own words demonstrate the sad truth that people are willing to put in more work at magnifying their own benevolence, and casting down others, than doing the hard work of making things tangibly better for their fellow humans.

As unfettered capitalism has augmented our incredible powers to harm both people and planet, it may be viewed as a blessing that indigenous peoples have not yet been invited to participate at scale. 

As the civil rights movement presently stands commandeered by a credentialled class of far-left intellectuals, it is rendered impotent by infighting and gatekeeping by the purest of the pure. The Biden administration is not nearly progressive enough. Viewed from the center and right, it’s radically leftist with designs on Marxifying America.  

The legacy television news networks, as well as NPR, are not serving any democratic ideals. They are saying that democracy doesn’t work. It isn’t even a good idea. The new social media “thought leaders,” do this too. Only they are much more effective. Their business model is entirely predicated on vilifying of the other, on sensationalism, on fear mongering. More hatred and more division translates to more clicks, more likes, more ad revenue.

Together, these superficially antithetical entities on the right and left say in one accord: It is not that the species called human will abuse its power; it is that the tribe that isn’t yours will. This is their business model. It is what happens when unfettered, unthinking capitalism is allowed to gorge on this planet, its peoples, its ecosystems. 

The result is horrific mass incarceration in a nation that calls itself “the land of the free.” The result is record profits, in the billions, of corporations and individuals during the first global pandemic of modern times. CEOs who make 271 times what their average employee makes. It is U.S. representatives of both parties grotesquely voting down increases of the minimum wage— even as those they represent struggle to earn in an entire year, what they take home in a single, blessed, month. 

This is us. This is not what some abstract baddies called “they,” do to us, but what we do to each other given the opportunity. Those bastard, slaving owning Founding Fathers knew it. They borrowed ideas from the Iroquois Confederation and the Great Law of Peace, and attempted to create a form of governance where these kinds of things wouldn’t happen. And if they did, it would be in the power of the citizenry to stop them and hold them accountable. But we can’t see it. Won’t see it. Demanding a functioning, transparent democracy with accountability isn’t nearly as gratifying tearing down our enemies, or even our friends who aren’t as perfect as we are.

It is time we the people, all of us, stopped believing the horseshit being fed to us— from the right and the left— which drives our modern, unfettered capitalist economy. It is time we use the remaining powers available to us in our democracy to hold our representatives accountable or vote them out if they refuse to ethically discharge their duties.