When I was a small boy my mother said it all the time. You children are cutting off your noses to spite your face. In other words, in defying me, you children are only hurting yourselves. “This is good for you, so do as I say,” was her motto.

In fact, my mother was often right. We children did defy her and often to a bad outcome. What she wanted us to do would have benefited us, but we were too stubborn to admit it.

Now I look around at the crises engulfing our nation and I see millions of people eager to cut off their noses in order to win a political argument. They, especially the liberals, are prepared to destroy our democratic institutions. They want to win at all costs.

Our American democracy is one of the glories of human history. There has never been such a stable democracy anywhere previously and yet many people take it for granted. They take it so much for granted that they are not prepared to defend it.

Let us first understand what a democracy is. Democracy is rule by the people — all of the people. As we have typically said, this means rule by the majority but with strong respect for minority rights.

In fact, it means something even more fundamental. It means rule by law. This is how the people govern themselves — it is through the law and respect of the law. This is the only way that we can be fair to one another.

And yet here we are with politicians proposing to open our borders. And here we are with other politicians supporting sanctuary cities. And still others proposing that we destroy our law enforcement agencies. We are even openly disrespecting our police officers.

Democracy does not mean anarchy. Democracy does not mean non-stop insults. Democracy requires cooperation and mutual respect.

Which brings me to political correctness. Once upon a time, the American democracy was proud to sponsor free speech. Nowadays, many in politics (liberals in particular) want to close down anything they find offensive. They describe this as compassionate, but it is profoundly anti-democratic.

When I hear the word racism bandied about with no evidence, my heart cringes. When I hear people accused of treason without evidence, my heart breaks. Don’t people care about the vile things they say about others?

Yes, it is true that President Trump can be careless in his language. His Queens upbringing has produced a directness and sometimes a crudeness that many find unpresidential. Given our history, they are correct. His presidency stands out.

But it doesn’t mean he is not doing what is in the best interest of our nation. Whatever his critics might say, he is doing his best to protect our democracy.

Although he is accused of being a dictator, he has not actually locked up any of his foes. Despite being accused of destroying the free press, he has engaged in no censorship. Those who accuse him of doing so are in fact, far more guilty of these offenses than he is.

Democracy took millennia to evolve. In the heat of the moment, millions of Americans seem eager to throw it away. They should think twice. They are behaving just the way my sister and I did when we were children. My sister and I were not evil. Neither are progressives. They are merely acting like stubborn children. The actions they pursue, however, are likely to do more harm than good.

America has many problems. We all know that. Democracy is never a done deal. But we must always remember that it is a work in progress.

When we have problems, people become impatient. Nonetheless, big problems take time to work through. Trying to rush things invariably makes things worse.

We are going through a period of cultural transition. It is hard to know exactly how things will work out. But throwing a tantrum will not help. Nor will throwing mud on one another.

The world 100 years from now will look different from our own. So, let us work together to make sure it is a better and democratic one.

Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of sociology at Kennesaw State University.

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