Gongol.com Archives: February 2023

Brian Gongol

February 15, 2023

The United States of America This is what democracy looks like

"This is what democracy looks like!": It's a chant often used by people who gather in the streets to protest, and it's untrue. Democracy looks like a 111-year-old woman who never misses a vote. Democracy is knowing that you won't get everything that you want, but neither will anyone else. It's showing up for the routine act of voting, peacefully and consistently, contributing more and more legitimacy to the system as the individual votes pile up. ■ Sometimes we're too quick to mistake mass activities for democracy. Sometimes, protest gatherings are useful: See the examples of the Selma to Montgomery march or the Maidan protests in Ukraine nearly a decade ago. If democratic channels are unavailable, people may well need to gather to make their voices heard. ■ But when universal suffrage prevails, polling places are secure, and the ballot box is counted fairly, then democracy looks like the individual voter informing themselves and voting their conscience -- many individuals over. The "I Voted" sticker is fun as a cultural artifact, but it's also the mark of a functional system, where people are free to indicate what they want in privacy and without fear of reprisals. ■ We honor the people who sacrificed on behalf of democratic rule when we participate in elections. We should of course honor those who risk or sacrifice their personal safety in order to protect democratic institutions. ■ But self-government isn't guaranteed by the armed forces alone. It's also guaranteed by the legitimacy conferred by mass participation. Susie Lewis, the voter who has showed up for nine decades of elections? She's a hero of democracy.

Threats and Hazards Overhead dangers

Is the Chinese spy balloon situation a cybersecurity threat? Yes, in the sense that it can be seen as a proof of concept. It's a potential platform from which novel forms of attack could be conducted: Airships that evade detection could be used, for instance, to sniff for stray signals and relay that data back to the home country for collection and analysis. Maybe that's not what was being done this time around, but it's a threat we shouldn't dismiss. Moreover, it may mean that domestic facilities in the United States need to upgrade their defenses. For example: Data centers have security fences, but do/should they have hardened roofs, too?