Citizen Obligation

That is the 21st Century question. Whether agents of government are tasked with telling the public what to do or, as the United States Constitution suggests, are to limit themselves to prohibiting socially injurious behaviors by individuals and corporations.

Republicans, being descendants of royalists, whose model of social organization is the family with its paternalistic head of household, continue to hold fast to the belief that their fellow man needs to be strictly ruled. Because people doing their own thing make them feel really insecure.

This is what accounts for the sudden resurgence of legislation all over the country, some organized by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, including most recently in North Carolina, in an effort to put people, especially women and children, back in their place. However, putting the genie back in the bottle is probably not going to work because the old strategy of divide to conquer has gotten really stale.

Pig In A Poke by James Herriot (Border Fine Arts)For example, instead of taking Governor Pat McCrory’s assertion that “outsiders” were invading his state of North Carolina, researchers started collecting demographic information from demonstrators and determined that

five of the respondents were from out-of-state and 311 were from North Carolina, . . . [and] The average age of the protesters, according to the UNC researchers, was 53, with 25 percent under age 36. Sixty percent were female, and the racial breakdown largely matched the 2010 Census findings – 79 percent were white, 17 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic and the rest were Asian, Pacific Islander, Indian or other.

But, if it’s not outside agitators that are propelling citizens to the capitol to object to their recently elected legislators’ agenda, then it must be buyers’ remorse. And that raises the question how it happened that all over the country (not just in Wisconsin and North Carolina) people were persuaded to put demagogues into office. Were they deceived or did they “buy a pig in a poke”? Likely both.

What seems to have happened is that the powers that be, the people who amassed lots of money by selling off our natural resources for private gain, determined that their sucking at the public teat was about to end and, since economic strictures were obviously not enough to make people mind their own business and let the exploiters go about theirs, their obedience would have to be coerced by restricting their rights.

“Civil disobedience” would be a nonsense phrase, if there weren’t a prior assumption that citizens have an obligation to obey, to do what they are told without question, just as if “big daddy” were still in charge. Civil disobedience would not be an issue, if public officials honored their obligation to be governed by the people who elect them.

For some reason, that election and governance are part of a process doesn’t register with some people. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of not “getting” relationships. Whatever the explanation, there is no reason to keep people in public office, who can’t do anything but tell others what to do.

Letting them pile on prohibitions is not an option, either. There’s much work to be done dealing with the vagaries of nature and rule-making is not going to do it.

Image: Pig In A Poke by James Herriot (Border Fine Arts) - promotional/fair use.

Monica Smith

Monica Smith writes Hannah's Blog. Born in Germany, she came to the United States as a child, living first in California, then after an interval in Chile, in New York. Married to a retired professor at the University of Florida, where she lived for 17 years, she moved to St. Simons Island, Georgia, in 1993 and now divides her time between Georgia and New Hampshire. (New Hampshire, she says, is always interesting during a presidential election.) She and her husband have three children and five grandchildren. Ms. Smith says she "learned long ago that I am not a good team player when I got hired at the Library of Congress, fresh out of college with a degree in political science and proficiency in four foreign languages, to 'edit' library cards and informed my supervisor that if she was going to insist I punch the clock exactly on time, my productivity was going to fall from being the highest to being the same as everyone else's. The supervisor opted to assign me to another building where there was no time-clock. After I had the first of our three children, I decided a paycheck wasn't worth the hassle."