Hello all,
I hope I’m one of the first to wish you all a very happy New Year’s celebration and I know 2008 is going to be a fantastic year! We’ve got elections, conventions, major world events happening left and right! Books and movies and parties, oh my!

I celebrated New Year’s eve in Las Vegas as part of a get together from my friends from grad school. I’m generally not a big Vegas fan, but it’s an interesting vantage-point in which to study and observe a large cross-section of American society.

2008 will be about the celebration of our democracy. To practice it is to celebrate it every day. And the health of worldwide democracy took a big hit last week as we all know, so I want to reflect quickly about the state of democracy, in the context of Pakistan.

The untimely death of Benazir Bhutto marks a turning point in Pakistan. Either democracy of the people will flourish and take hold, or it will fail under the weight of Islamofacist terrorists. Only time, and the next set of elections and leaders will tell.

What disturbs me the most about this, and other democratic movements we’ve seen lately is that they are so heavily based on a “personality.” This is almost what I’ll call faux-democracy. It’s fake! We see this ALL over South America. The denizens find someone with a charismatic personality. Sometimes, it results in great leaders (Bhutto) who believe in democracy. Sometimes it results in failure (Hugo Chavez anybody). But in the case of Bhutto and others is that while the right intentions may be there, it’s still about the “personality cult.” Where the people believing in democracy because they truely wanted it and could grasp it, or were they just following a charismatic leader who wanted it. That’s a REALLY big difference.

With the American revolution, we certainly had our charismatic leaders (and anybody who knows the history of George Washington certainly knows he was a charismatic leader more than any of his other, less notable or desirable qualities), but we had a bunch of other leaders in the movement as well, like John Adams, Ben Franklin, etc. + all the dudes who signed the Declaration of Independence. If one of them died, then there would be plenty to follow in their stead…who could pick up that flag and run with it.

And now…we look at Pakistan. Bhutto is dead. And the best we can do is her 19 year old son who is still in college in England? Hello?!?!?! What the hell has been going on over there? Is there anybody BESIDES Bhutto who really believed in democracy who could carry this banner? Or is this just one more tragic example of a cult personality/charismatic leader who had all the right intentions but was unable to instill the very essence of what she believed into her people.

So where does this leave us? What as a nation do we do to not just have democratically-inclined charismatic leaders, but people who are incensed with the passion for democracy and the steady practice and celebration of it? How do we best go about doing this? I’m open for suggestions, so please comment back.

Ok…that wasn’t a quickie, but I’ll leave you with that. We’ve got Iowa caucuses coming up real soon, and oh yeah…that whole Michael Bloomberg thing. I’m hearing from my sources (2nd hand) on all sides that he’s going to run for POTUS.

Hold on to your hats folks! 2008 is here and the train has left the station. Yee haw!

-Charles