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Soviet-Style Republic of Democrats

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

A Socially Speaking Commentary from Perry Redd

Sure, I may sound extreme, but I’ll demonstrate extreme to you. I live, work and pay taxes in Washington, DC—not the DC you see on TV, but the place where people eat, sleep and pay rent. The place where war wages in the most translucent ways. The aboriginals are under siege, the resources are being plundered and the authority is autocratic. Sounds a lot like the very thing the US tells us to fear…from Russia.

The US government has spent valuable media capital trying to convince us that Vladimir Putin is executing a war against democracy, by taking the Ukrainian region of Crimea back. Crimea is highly valued because it is a sea port, nevermind the people. Across Ukraine’s eastern border, Russian troops continue massing. They are taking control of the region, flying Russian flags. We’re being told, effectively “colonizing” Crimea is akin to rebuilding the non-democratic soviet empire, USSR.

I grew up with images of stone-faced, stiff-backed enemies of all that was right and good. Russia was seen as the satan to America’s devil. What I came to learn is they’re all white first, thus they held the line in a “Cold War” and never fired a shot. They might hurt their poor citizens, but they won’t harm each other. Only until Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost in the late 1980’s, did we believe democracy was possible across the world—or at least, eastern Europe.

The policy that called for increased openness and transparency in government institutions and activities in the Soviet Union, glastnost, was applauded by Americans. What we successfully ignored—and continue to ignore—is that openness and transparency in government institutions and activities doesn’t exist here…in DC.

You see, I said all of that to say this: in DC, our government is Russian-like on so many levels. Openness is myth; transparency is a fairytale and the word glasnost was frequently used by Gorbachev to specify the policies he believed might help reduce the corruption at the top of the Communist Party and the Soviet government and moderate the abuse of administrative power in the Central Committee. Though it was a noble cause, Gorbachev got sacked.  DC has the same issues. 12 of the 13 members on our DC Council are Democrats; nothing short of un-democratic. And we complain about the Russians?

We don’t know about the developer deals until after they’re made. But our citizens keep electing the same people, then complain that they’re corrupt. We’ve witnessed three councilpersons get federally convicted in three years with our mayor’s head on the currently chopping block. We even allow the ultimate snow job: Democrats switching their party affiliation for the general election after they lose in the primary.  No ethics, no morals, no shame; but more importantly, no democracy.

What’s equally hypocritical is that DC residents can’t control their own budget, finalize their own laws or even have a voting representative in the very centralized government they pay their taxes to—personal and business.  You see, DC is not a state, though we have more people living within our boundaries than both either Vermont or Wyoming.  We, like Palestine, don’t have statehood, so we’re live perpetually in danger of being under the thumb of a higher power that ain’t God.  Kiev fears Russia may be an invasion force ready to push into Russian-speaking communities in eastern Ukraine. Others are concerned that Moscow’s expansion plans may not stop at Crimea and that other former Soviet states may follow. DC residents fear speaking out because the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (the effectual committee on DC), Rep. Darrell Issa of California, will come to take your freedom to self-determination away…so they settle for the Crimea solution.

The residents of DC are predominantly Black; about 48% of Washingtonians today. Just 25 years ago, that number was well over 70%. During that time, Black residents effectively gave the city away to people who hate them, white people. Through privatization and non-transparent deals by elected officials, the rise of the “Great Bear” that symbolized Russian might during my childhood, has become the white gentrifier of DC.  False inclusion, no negotiation and raping the resources reminds me so much of the Vladimir Putin our government is trying to make us fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no love for Putin either. He simply acts like those that control my government—both local and federal. Moscow has continuously stated Russia has no intention to move further into Ukraine. The Kremlin says it is simply conducting military exercises. That sounds eerily like our DC Council telling us about Walmart just four years ago: “nothing will go forward without public input; we must listen to the people of our communities,” said a Councilperson who is now running for mayor. Now we have six Walmarts.

We here in DC need what Gorbachev envisioned: Perestroika (literally: Restructuring), another reform instituted by Gorbachev at the same time. We need a charter amendment changing the composition of the legislating body. Less Democrats will bring more glasnost. Glasnost can also refer to the specific period in the history of the USSR during the 1980s when there was less censorship and greater freedom of information.  The media—specifically, The Washington Post, are mouthpieces for Democrats, not democracy. The minor papers are mimeographs of the same. The Washington Infomer, The Washington Times (though they’re conservative), the City Paper, you name it. Censorship is here. They report the words, thoughts and ideas of no one else.

As registered DC voters, we ought to oppose the practice of switching registration from the majority Democrat Party to Independent in order to run for the At-Large Council seat not filled by the primary nomination of the Democrat Party candidate.  In recent elections, at least three Democrat candidates have evaded election law and the spirit of the Home Rule Act by re-registering as Independents. Our city’s long-term interests are served by political diversity. We need a Perestroika now!


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