The term crisis is circumstantial.
On an international scale, a crisis can be easily defined as the current occurrences on the western-front of Venezuela. As President Nicolás Maduro blockades much needed humanitarian aid from suffering civilians, opposition leader Juan Guaidó has named himself the country’s legitimate president, furthering an already chaotic climate.
A crisis may also be defined as the current events in Israel in which four-term president Benjamin Netenyahu, who Israel’s attorney general recommends criminal charges against, is likely to gain re-election despite the great implications that his actions have on an already unstable country.
Or on a more national scale, we can define the class struggle, relations between President Donald Trump and his constituency, or gun violence in modern America as their own respective crises.
Even something as comparatively minuscule as the implications of the Path to Prominence on Lehigh’s campus can be defined, relatively, as a crisis.
Not in an attempt to devalue seemingly smaller crises, but adversely in an attempt to recognize our privileges and freedoms it is essential that we take into consideration the issues occurring around us locally and globally.
America is quick to recognize and criticize the shortcomings of other countries and to look at the internal conflicts of other governments while basking in the self serving “American pride” that this country has been built upon. In doing this, we often fail to recognize that our democracy is in crisis mode itself.
Throughout his first two years in office, Trump has created extreme internal unrest and has quickly run into many issues with the law. Trump’s former personal lawyer, attorney Michael Cohen, is facing criminal proceedings following admissions to tax fraud, making false financial statements, unlawful corporate contributions and excessive campaign contribution, all of which were on Trump’s behalf.
Who are we to criticize unstable regimes when, in the past week, the personal attorney to the leader of our country has faced upward of eight criminal counts all of which were connected to Trump. After months of remaining virtually silent amidst these trials, Cohen coined Trump as a racist, a conman and a cheat. These trials serve as a fair argument for the corruption and crises that exist in our own government.
To contrast, as Americans we have been afforded the extreme privileges of democracy. On a large scale, this can be viewed as the fact that we hold the same criminal proceedings for the president’s “right hand man” as we do any other citizen. If anything, those in power are held at greater accountability, instead of other, often corrupt regimes in which those in power are given the freedom to work around legal proceedings.
The proceedings Cohen is facing are a product of the checks and balances system in effect. We reserve the right to hold Congress accountable. Despite how embarrassing it may be that individual agents of our government are failing us, the system itself is proving to be as strong as ever.
It is fair to say that we as a country are suffering our own crises, but we must acknowledge that Americans are at a less tangible risk than many other country’s citizens. We are encouraged to hold those in power accountable, not threatened. We are allowed to publish our beliefs and push back when we feel as though our rights are being violated.
Unlike many other countries, the principles of our democracy thrive in times of crisis.
During the fall 2018 semester, Lehigh administration released information about the demolition of Trembley, one of the prominent housing options for on-campus students. The Lehigh community was in crisis mode.
As proof of the stability of our democracy on a Lehigh level, our university Student Senate, of whom we elected as a student body, drafted a letter listing the grievances of the community. Within days, the university administration responded, acknowledging the student body’s grievances and deciding to postpone Trembley’s demolition.
Due to the ever-present anxiety that living in crisis-mode creates, we often forget that it is a privilege that we can trust our democracy to represent us. It is a privilege that we can depend on a system of checks and balances to hold those in power accountable. It is a privilege that in times of crisis, our voices are amplified, not silenced.