Paris Hilton Starts Jail Time and other news…

Well, I know it must be important that Paris starts jail time, but I’m more caught up in less topical news: like, what’s happening to the reputation of democracy since the United States’ war in Iraq.

My cabbie yesterday morning, a philosopher named Chris from Ghana who drives a cab for a living, noted that not too long ago Africans looked up to American democracy, but now they don’t. He said this in exasperation after hearing a news report about “democratization” in Africa.

Democratization generally involves importing ballot boxes. But democracy happens prior to any ballot boxes. It happens in public spaces where people of different temperaments come together to talk.  Ballot boxes, as my friend Randa Slim notes, can exacerbate conflict in divided communities.  What such communities need are public spaces for building relationships.  Relationships don’t happen in private polling booths.