From Point No Point to Deception Pass: May Day is for flowers and more

I love mingling with the kind and gentle folks of this island, and I swear, we have more than our fair share of such folks here. The kind of people you see on May Day wearing flowers in their hair and dancing around a maypole. My concern with them, however, is whether their kind and gentle hearts are also strong hearts?

I say this because we are in great need of men and women capable of great deeds today. The mythologist Joseph Campbell described what he called the hero’s journey as a challenging adventure with an uncertain outcome, hopefully ending in the hero returning home with a gift for his people. Some of the better known mythological heroes’ journeys are that of Gilgamesh of Sumeria, Odysseus of Greece, Siddartha of India, and in our own time we have the epic tale of Frodo Baggins’s dangerous journey to Mt. Doom to rid the world of the threat posed by the ring of power in the epic tale, Lord of the Rings.

The history and the ongoing story of our democracy is one that involves a good many heroes’ journeys. Over the years a host of scoundrels, bullies, liars and thieves have tried to destroy our democracy and abolish our Constitution. The English King George sent his redcoat army to our shores to crush the revolution in 1776. Slaveholders, internal enemies who wanted to continue to keep other people as slaves, rose in a rebellion that cost half a million lives before it was put down in 1865.

The warlords of Japan thought that we would be cowed by their ruthless attack on our base at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. They thought that we would shrink from a violent confrontation with the dictators of the time, who were on the move, subjugating neighboring lands and peoples.

The hero’s journey to preserve and protect our democracy is a perilous one indeed. Apathy, ignorance, cowardice and greed all stand in the way. Conmen selling guns, selling drugs, selling fear or selling tax cuts for the rich, lure people into abandoning their principles. When they succeed, as Pogo said so well, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

We pay particular homage to those who dress in uniforms and take up arms against the foe. However, there are many more unsung heroes, millions of them, who also take decisive action during times of peril. In 1940 there were prominent Americans with many followers who tried to convince our people that we should not come to the aid of the British or the French or the Dutch, whose democratic societies were being targeted and destroyed by Nazi Germany. The Nazi sympathizers in our society argued that the Nazis had done much to admire and might be worth imitating here in America. They managed to convince enough people in order to block American entry into the war in Europe for over two years as Europe’s fascist strong men enslaved one little nation after another across continental Europe.

Today again we have people who openly admire autocrats and dictators, men like Victor Orban in Hungary and Vladimir Putin in Russia. They admire men who rule over societies where a wealthy few call all the shots. There is no union organizing, no right to peaceful assembly over issues like Palestine, or attention to climate issues in these societies. And they have convinced millions of our fellow citizens of the big lie that our present government is an illegitimate one. They promote the totally false claim that the last presidential election was stolen from their candidate.

Once again, like American voters in 1940, we are all being asked to play our part in a hero’s journey this fall as we participate in the great national decision. We will decide whether the system laid out in our Constitution, our participatory democracy, will continue, and maybe be made stronger, or will be replaced by a system that prevails in countries where one man imposes his will upon the people.

Four years ago I got writer’s cramp preparing over two hundred post cards to send to prospective voters in Florida and Georgia. I want to believe that my modest efforts, and those of many other people here who did even more than me, made some small difference in the battle ground states. I am stretching and massaging my fingers in anticipation of another push this year in an election whose outcome will affect the health and welfare of all living beings on planet earth for years to come.

We have an opportunity once again this year to participate in the miracle of the peaceful, democratic transfer of power in the USA. An active, informed and engaged citizenry could once again save our democracy or, in the absence of that, make us witness to its final defeat from within.

Dr. Michael Seraphinoff is a Whidbey Island resident, a former professor at Skagit Valley College and academic consultant to the International Baccalaureate Organization.