What is the likelihood of violence breaking out in America? The 35-year anniversary of the Kent State massacre may seem like a meaningless footnote in the history of the 1960s for people under 50, but it was much more. The killing of citizens by their own government is the ultimate expression of state terror. It galvanizes the public against the government in a way that cannot be described and it causes a major shifting of political alliances.
Is this where the nation is headed?
The shooting of peaceful demonstrators in Falluja had the same affect as it did in Northern Ireland on Bloody Sunday. A single deadly incident served as the catalyst for massive armed struggle. Kent State had a similar effect, shaping the consciousness of an entire generation.
The thing I find most striking about people who are under 40 (who didn’t experience the 1960s) is their implicit trust in government. It’s shocking. As journalist Izzie Stone said to his students, “If I could only teach you one thing it would be this: Governments lie!” The 60s generation was defined by its wariness of government. Our slogans “Never trust anyone over 30” or “Tune in, turn on, drop out” articulated the divisions that existed in society and synthesized the attitudes of a generation, attitudes that were mistrustful of authority and contemptuous of the “Establishment”. The men who never fit into that generation (George Bush “cheerleader” George Will, Richard Perle, etc,) still harbor a strong resentment that manifests itself in their anti-progressive agenda and their bitterness towards that epoch. Quite simply, they were the misfits.
Trust in government for the under-40 crowd is bound to come under serious strain as the economy begins to bog down and the war drags on. They’ll see that there’s nothing supporting either the war or the economy except the calculated deceptions of government officials. The under-40s are about to learn first-hand the meaning of Stone’s warning.
The government cannot be trusted…Ever! That’s the lesson of our generation and of Kent State. When we look back on those tragic events we should be evaluating the divisions that exist in society today and asking ourselves: How long will it be before violence breaks out in America again?
Personally, I’ve believed for the last two years that America is inexorably marching towards violence on the home front. How could it be otherwise? The fraudulent 2004 (Ohio) presidential elections only reinforced my belief that the political options have been foreclosed.
The prospect of the smooth transition of executive power from one leader to the next seems more and more implausible. The dubious presidential election of 2004 has created a feeling of uneasiness among the people who followed the details, and for good reason. Everyone from Gore Vidal to Christopher Hitchens has dismissed the balloting as just another big scam. There’s simply no way to account for the statistical anomalies that exist between the final vote count and the exit polls. The election was clearly rigged (with the help of the Republican-owned voting machinery) and the media papered it over with some nonsense about Christian zealots coming down from the mountains to vote in their first election (a myth that was disproved months later). It’s just another victory for Karl Rove and the public relations firms that run the country.
So, the democratic process has been rescinded again. The men at the top rungs of government have seized power through an (nearly) invisible coup and there’s very little chance that they plan to leave office according to the normal protocols (considering the litany of crimes they have already committed). This puts the American people in the unenviable position of trying to depose the current regime without resorting to violence. It looks like an uphill struggle all the way.
It’s clear that the Bush administration is preparing for violence within the country. Why else would they put so much effort into drawing up repressive legislation if they weren’t expecting massive political upheaval or civil disorder? Is this the prelude to an economic meltdown or a re-enactment of the draft? And, why has Washington DC deteriorated into a military fortress, protecting the icons of the republic from the people they are supposed to represent? The Bush team is getting ready to rumble and all of the pieces are being put in place.
Most of the repressive laws that have been passed by Bush’s rubber-stamp Congress are still unknown to the American people; they’ve been successfully hidden from view by the collaborative media and the incredible length of the documents themselves. The Patriot Act for example is over 300 pages long and the National Intelligence Reform Bill is over 600 pages -- a virtual “wish-list” for the many quasi-fascist organizations that operate in full view of the American public. Similarly, the Dept. of Defense, under the direction of Donald Rumsfeld, has written the term “unlawful combatant” into military code, a term that dismisses 800 years of civil liberties with one stroke of the pen. American citizens and foreign nationals can now be legally incarcerated as long as the state sees fit without charges and without restriction. Constitutionally guaranteed protections are gone; the citizen stands defenseless before the all-powerful state.
The architects of this new “social order” are impervious to reason or public opinion. This creates an even more volatile situation then existed in the ‘60s. Sometime in the next two years I expect we’ll see a tragic display of the administration’s over-reliance on force. The most likely scenario would be a street protest that triggers a violent reaction from the regime. If such an event occurs, we can be sure that the consciousness of this generation will be as deeply as affected as those who remember Kent State.
When the state succumbs to the use of force against its own people it is conceding that it has lost its popular mandate and its ability to win the “consent of the governed.” Simply put, it is the end of the government’s moral legitimacy (its right to rule) and the termination of the “social contract”. The citizen is free to behave as he chooses, unencumbered by the rules and restrictions of the state.
President Bush has often repeated his view that “You’re either with us or against us.” Violence against the public feeds this narrow logic and splits the nation into polarized encampments. Where reason ends, the violence of partisanship is bound to begin.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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