“The peasants are revolting,” my sister said to me, “only this time, they’re angry, as well.” As perfectly ironic a summation of the American mood as any I have heard.
We were having breakfast at the iHop on Frederick Boulevard in midtown Portsmouth, Virginia, my putative hometown and a harbinger of the ongoing decay-renewal-decay cycle that is seeping through the America located more than 5 miles from any gated community, despite the brave facings of the Realtor® and civic groups convinced that fresh paint and poor planning are fair substitutes for forward looking investment.
Given the nature of our government, the American Republic of Corporate Sponsorship, decreed by a Supreme Court –probably still high from overturning the popular vote of the 2000 election– it’s really no wonder that we are entombed in pessimism and fatalism that makes us indifferent even about the infrastructure of our society. We pretend, after all, to democracy organized as a constitutional republic, although that pretense comes with ever diminishing enthusiasm.
We have devolved to “US” versus “THEM”, apparently ignorant of the fact that “WE” are one and the same. The parties are now mostly celebratory parties and banquets for wealthy supporters, who are frequently the same people. Their differences are simply stated: one believes the government should rob us, the other believes the corporations should rob us. And some are only certain we should be robbed.
Of course, when you’re the victim, all the matters is that someone is holding a gun.
Joseph de Maistre, a French guy practically no one remembers, said “Every country has the government it deserves.” But he also said this: “I don’t know what a scoundrel is like, but I know what a respectable man is like, and it’s enough to make one’s flesh creep.”
And therein lies our present conundrum. We give the power to govern to men and women we presume respectable, with no thought to what temptation does to humanity, particularly when there is no penalty for succumbing. And, alas, there is none. There are only rewards.
In fact, the lessons I have taken from recent history–or the history that has transpired in my lifetime–are simply stated:
- Lie with impunity. When people call your lie, call them liars. (Every President since Eisenhower, except Jimmy).
- Steal big, and steal from the people (aka the government).
- If you steal from the people you will be lifted up. (Too many elected and corporate officials to name).
- If you steal from the moneyed interests you will be taken down. (Bernie Madoff, et. al.)
Unfortunately, there has been some negative outfall. America also has taught its children these lessons:
- Right and wrong are negotiable.
- Truth is a moving target, not an absolute.
- Showing up is more important than contributing.
- Good deeds are unlikely to be rewarded with anything other than a plaque.
- Audacity, immorality, and vulgarity will lead to success.
Even the children of the privileged will tell you this. Personally, I find nothing wrong with audacity, tempered with honor and decency. But, in America, we took the “u” out of honour a long time ago, in public life, anyway. And without it, “u is nowhere,” if you catch my drift.
One way to begin to address this involves installing a guillotine on the Mall in Washington DC and just outside every government office building in the nation, and not hesitating to use them. I, of course, get to choose who is executed.
The other is to reform the political system. No more 2 parties. No more disenfranchisement of Independent voters at primary time. No more not counting votes. And, by the way, no more unlimited advertising budgets financed by mysterious agents of particular agendas. Make the media pay for their ability to make money at our expense by providing fair and open debate and equal time between candidates (it used to be called “public service” and was part of the deal that gave them the license to enrichment).
I’ll bet you have some ideas, too. Winter might be a good time to air them out. There’s an election in 2 years, you know. We can’t just shake the box and put the same nuts in the bowl again. Because the peasants are not only revolting. They’re angry.
Oh, yeah. And they’re well armed.
Bonus Thought: When you go through airport security, ask for the pat-down. Loudly say things like “I love it when you touch me there!” Because when your government can handle your privates, the terrorists have won.