(Author’s note: I wrote this short essay in 2013 when I was frothing at the mouth over the actions of the current Administration in D.C. – so a few of my references are dated. Until now, my diatribe was only ever published in the echoing, cobwebbed passages of my own mind. I’ve edited it here where possible to provide a more relevant context of the particular reference. Please understand that I attempt to posit no political bent, only a lament. I look forward to your comments – please be kind to the old guy …)
One of my guilty pleasures is television … not a lot (other than football on the weekends), sometimes three hours a night, two or three nights a week. And even then usually leavened with the latest book from the top of my “gotta read real soon” stack. In my own simple male way, I try very hard to multi-task (it’s okay to admit it … women are SO much better at it). I have “my” stories I try not to miss … NCIS, Bones, GoT … and because I appreciate the level of talent, yes – I watch Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, and (sigh) I’m a “Glee-k” (don’t hate me). I make no judgement on whatever “message” is purportedly sent by the programming. I watch purely for my own entertainment and at this point in my life, I figure I’m seasoned enough to form my own opinions.
But every once in a while, the dialogue grabs my attention. In “Sleepy Hollow,” the character Ichabod Crane has been transported 250 years into the future – from the Revolutionary War to 2013. A recent episode had Ichabod disgusted over the sales tax on food charged with his breakfast from Mickey D’s. “Why are people not [protesting] in the streets!?” he exclaimed. Why not indeed?
I was a big fan of “The Newsroom” until the writers decided they needed to drag up an alleged incident from the Vietnam War and pass it off as a current event. In the pilot, Will McCavoy was asked the question, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” His answer is epic … (caution: rough language):
In my never-to-be-humble-opinion … he’s right. We’re not the greatest country any more … we were, once … we could be again – but We The People first need to cure ourselves of our self-inflicted cranial-rectal inversion problem. We’ve been complacent for much too long, content with the chicken in the pot and the car in the garage. Shh! For God’s sake, do NOT rock the boat, we might get splashed!
It’s not a recent circumstance – good hell, in 1849 Henry David Thoreau penned his essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” (Note – Thoreau referred to the Duty of civil disobedience.) His essay is much too long to post here, but should be read by every one calling him- or herself “patriot.”
The Founders did not intend the People to be ruled by a government from the top-down. They envisioned our Nation to be one of equal opportunity, with the People vitally involved in the details of Their own governance. We were to elect Statesmen, not politicians. Early in his essay, Thoreau made this observation:
This American government–what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instant losing some of its integrity? It has not the vitality and force of a single living man; for a single man can bend it to his will. It is a sort of wooden gun to the people themselves. But it is not the less necessary for this; for the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have. Governments show thus how successfully men can be imposed upon, even impose on themselves, for their own advantage. It is excellent, we must all allow. Yet this government never of itself furthered any enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got in its way. For government is an expedient, by which men would fain succeed in letting one another alone; and, as has been said, when it is most expedient, the governed are most let alone by it. Trade and commerce, if they were not made of india-rubber, would never manage to bounce over obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads.
Written in 1849, and allowing for certain period-specific references, it’s no less relevant today.
But let’s step back even a bit farther, to the Duties in American Colonies Act of 1765, or as more commonly known “The Stamp Act.” On the surface, the Act appeared just and necessary – to pay for services directly benefiting the Colonies. It’s method of implementation however, being imposed without fair discourse from those being taxed, and then taxing a vitally important commodity not directly associated with the service … and only available through a sole, governmental source … eventually proved the ignition of a bloody, costly revolution.
Our Government, or more precisely those we elect to Government, has learned their lessons well over the past 237 years. They’ve learned that instead of the heavy jack-boot of totalitarianism, it’s much more satisfying to gently nudge We The People in the direction that They want us to go. After all, it leads Us to believe that direction is indeed the way We intended to go in the first place. The velvet glove is always a thin disguise to the iron fist … but let’s face it, We feel better … don’t We? Rather than a firing squad, we fall instead to a thousand gentle cuts.
We elect our officials based on what They can do for Us … rather than what is best for our Nation. “Vote for me! I’ll give you a free cell phone!” “Vote for me! My skin color is the same as yours. It’s OUR time!” “Vote for me! Free health care!” “Vote for me! I’ll make the rich pay!” “Vote for me! I’ll write off your mortgage and college loans!” “Vote for me!” And on and on, ad nauseum. It’s a fact – our elections are not won so much as they are purchased.
The current Administration is determined to implement a poorly designed law, passed without full knowledge, and upheld under duress … against all evidence that it has been, and will continue to be, injurious to our economy, our society, our culture and our Nation. Overt lies are nightly fed to an under-educated, uninformed constituency, using polls and partisan rhetoric to promote policy.
We have allowed our most hallowed grounds to be desecrated, locked away from those who would seek to find solace there. We have shamed our Veterans, those very men and women who have paid the ultimate price in the name of Our freedom … by refusing to ernestly raise Our voice in its defense. Government golf courses remain open, while commissaries, so vital to young military families, were shuttered. Our monuments were barricaded, stealing the very heritage of our People.
Why are people not in the streets?
It’s beginning … with the rumble of 800,000 motorcycles … with the shuffle of the walkers and squeaky wheels of the chairs supporting our WWII veterans … our Vietnam-era veterans who are themselves no stranger to controversy … the slapping feet of the runner undeterred from his daily run.
We The People are indeed a sleeping giant. The question remains however: will we continue to awake?
Where are our voices? Where are our Sophie Scholls? Why are people not in the streets?
Regardless of how history has painted the Kennedy brothers, JFK’s inaugural speech is extremely poignant and relevant. If I may misquote him a bit:
We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage – and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those … rights to which this Nation has always been committed …
… we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
This much we pledge – and more.
I fear for my Nation. The ideal that we were to be, the beacon upon a hill, a harbinger of freedom and the rights of man … is under concerted assault. I sincerely pray our journey will not end as history indicates it shall.