The state of democracy in my state of California


By Cassandra Fazio

I am on the plane, descending into Sydney, having left California the day of our tragic election results. I am seated next to a US pollster, one who finally asked my opinion of our democratic charade.

I lamented that our governor, Pete Wilson, who's slashed family planning and school budgets, increased college tuition dramatically and imposed further taxes on newspapers, has won himself another term.

Propositions which will deny medical care and education to all illegal aliens have passed by large margins. Voted in by people who care or know not about our skewed, racist immigration policies. Voters who care not about our violent foreign policies, funding the dictators whom these "illegals" are so often fleeing. Voters who ignore the chaos that will result from taking thousands of immigrant children out of school.

California prison size has doubled since 1984. Soon we will have even more. Everyone is sufficiently terrorised by the media's focus on civilian crime, designed to take our focus off state crime. More inmates are fatally shot by guards in California's prisons than in all other states combined.

We have just passed a "three strikes and you're out law" — or in for life, actually. It is not contingent on violent crime, so a drug addict, or a thief who is non-violent, may get a life term after three arrests. But the average time served for murder is merely two years.

I explained to this pollster that that is why I am here, making my great escape. "You should stay and help change these problems", he responded, eliciting my guilt and a deep sadness that as a liberal, freelance journalist I have little impact on the masses. The millions read and watch the 98% of all news outlets that are owned by just a few of our largest corporations.

Why do they call corporate propaganda "news"? I do not know. They also call corporate representatives "candidates", and the military complex's board of directors is going by the name of "Congress".

The few who are receptive to my commentary are already of like mind. We read each other's insights and await the day the National Guard comes storming into our homes.

We are not surprised when it is revealed that the military injected plutonium into unwitting civilian guinea pigs. Nor when it is revealed that the "democratic" government of El Salvador is made up of the death-squad leaders who assassinated Oscar Romero and thousands of others. Though thousands of church members organised an illegal "sanctuary movement" to protect those fleeing from Central America, most Americans never heard of this in the mainstream press.

I explained to the pollster that I could not even cast my ballot for the corporate puppet of my choice, due to our undemocratic policy that requires we register with our residence address weeks before the election. If you are homeless, or if you move during this period, as I unexpectedly did, you are fresh out of luck. If you vote at the polling place near your old address, you are breaking the law. Attempts to change this law have been opposed by the far right, who benefit from making voting more difficult.

Not voting and a $1200 ticket are the prices I've paid for my adventure to the land down under. Please welcome me Australia; I am just beginning my recovery.