Amid controversy about the travel ban by President Trump and then struck down by a Seattle court and later by two federal judges, the University of Okahoma hosted a “Forum on Democracy” which was headed by the College of International Studies. The Forum was a collection of individual academics and panelists speaking about a range of issues from corruption, populism, checks and balances, public schools, and many other topics. I was able to attend a talk by presenter Dr. Meta Carstarphen focusing on journalism and then the panel discussion afterwards. The journal consisted of Dr. Carstarphen, Rick Tepker (OU Law), Dr. Justin Wert (Political Science), and Dr. Waleed Mahdi (historian). What most interested me of all of the programming was the question and answer portion that was held directly after the panelists finished their talks. A nice young woman went up to the microphone and said, “I’m of the school of thought that there needs to be destruction before real change can be made…”
I’m not sure what she said after that because I tuned it out. I’m not one for anarchy, and this girl had already begun her sentence with a statement that was cause for concern. Apparently, the panelists felt the same way I did. Dr. Mahdi stepped up to answer her question. But then he began speaking about my generation of Americans. He spoke about growing up in Yemen surrounded by war. He talked about how, children that have grown into adults without having to experience conflicts, especially in places such as the United States that have a representative democracy, begin to forget the values of freedom and democracy because they do not know a time without it. They do not know real destruction. He spoke about how that ideology of destruction and then rebuilding is dangerous to the preservation of democracy. And, although what he said might have been hurtful to the girl brave enough to ask questions, I couldn’t help but side with him. There reason we learn about history in school is so that we will not repeat the atrocities of the past. However, there is a difference between reading about atrocities in a book and experiencing them first hand. If we do not emphasize the good that comes from our current system, then we will forget about what we have and long for destruction. This ideology is dangerous in the wrong hands. It can lead to civil wars and terrorism and pain. If we do not continue to educate people daily on why the United States runs on a democratic system (as flawed as it may be) then we will fall into the trap of allowing history to repeat itself.