Don’t Live the Lie,
There seems little point in using the ballot box or electronic voting machines to change the players in the White House, the US Congress and, by extension, the Supreme Court, the federal bureaucracy and the military. Funny how all those folks who are elected or appointed in recent times “leave” government richer than when they started whether measured in dollars, power or connections. And when these officials take their positions in the business world, they use their influence to alter legislation and regulations to favor the organizations they represent. The elected/appointed and the corporate/nonprofit worlds seem indistinguishable. The same person who used to “protect and defend the constitution” might now be the director on the board of the company that recommends that your position be eliminated. And they never seem to fade away as fast as they should.
These illustrious leaders are all tied together by their belief, as Donald Rumsfeld put it, that all but the very few—meaning them—are fungible, easily replaceable commodities. But give Rumsfeld and the Republicans their due. They are just so totally Soviet in their methodology--secretive, unapologetic, irresponsible, dominating, absurd, dangerous and tragicomic—that even Stalin might have raised an eyebrow at their ruthlessness.
Then there are the Democrats. These Perestroikians are supportive of most of the Republican programs. While the Republicans use a shock and awe approach to governance, the Democrats opt for a cosmetic tact. The makeup they wear makes them appear to be the defenders of the Bill of Rights, supporters of labor, and antiwar. But once the makeup is removed, one finds that there’s a Republican face underneath. The leading Democrat John Kerry believes that more Americans, and presumably Europeans too, must die in Iraq. “I believe that failure is not an option in Iraq,” he said recently. And just how is failure being defined by Democrats these days? Democrats have allowed a slew of individuals ranging from John Ashcroft to John Negroponte to move to positions of great power in the federal government. They have turned their heads while indicted individuals in the Iran-Contra were appointed to diplomatic positions within the US State department. They have sat idly by while millions of Americans have lost work. They supported the PATRIOT Act and US disengagement from treaty after treaty be it environmental or involving limitations on children in war. And the want the trust of the American people.
New Age Soviets
In a series of outrageous CYA moves, these new age Soviets, America’s own senior Republicans and Democrats, ensured that not one of them would face any consequences for the greatest intelligence and military failure in history on September 11, 2001. In like manner, they’ve ensured that not one of them will be accountable for the lies that have led to the unnecessary carnage in Iraq. But they will make sure someone in the lower level echelons of the military and government, and society at-large, pays for their malfeasance.
Both parties have polluted the national psyche with ever more violence, as if the national psyche needed to become more violent. Each day, through their friends in the media, a US military commander, a politician, a commentator promotes more killing. Capture and kill, capture and kill, fight to the end, fight to the end, is the refrain whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Pakistan, Haiti or right here in America where there is a War on Terror, Drugs, Cancer, Crime, Poverty, Illiteracy and Hunger. This is policy and practice taken right off of Metallica’s classic album Kill “Em All.
But the reality is that Americans are mostly a non-violent people opting for virtual violence—videogames, television, movies, paintball, sports, argument—over the deadly business of warfighting. The problem is that most Americans are not running the show. They have no choice in the decision to go to war. That dubious distinction is left to those friendly new age Soviets sitting pretty in the White House, Congress and scores of offices throughout the Pentagon and the federal bureaucracy. They love war but do not like their minions in the homeland to see its consequences and its many follies. They want you to think it’s virtual. Or rather, they do not want the public to see the gooey remains of men, women and children subjected to metal moving at high velocity, prison photos of naked Iraqi men with abusive American military guards, or any image that might make the grand conquerors seem less-than-grand. Yet, it’s fine for them to show the dead bodies of the opponent’s sons, the humiliating medical checkup of a defeated ruler and the glorious strafing run of the Specter gunship.
Tragic and Comic
It’s tragicomic as you sit watching, via CNN or Al Jazeera, images of explosions and tracer rounds in Falluja, Iraq as they—in the form of a US general, tell you, “The ceasefire there is still in place.” Huh? In another bit of tragicomedy, blogger silenceisconsent reports that Bush stated in March of 2003 that “In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers or rape rooms. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near.” But didn’t CBS News and then Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker expose defense contractors Titan and CACI and the US military for torture and forced rape at Abu Ghraib? And who needs mass graves when US ordnance obliterate any evidence of the thousands Iraqi civilians slaughtered by land, sea, air and space? Once again, Republicans and Democrats have joined hands to spin the news that this abuse is not representative of grand old America and we must honor the rule of law. That from representatives of a country that houses over two million inmates, a percentage of which are not guilty.
And so, learning of the incidents at Abu Ghraib, Democratic contender John Kerry stated forcefully that "We must learn the facts and take the appropriate action. As Americans, we must stand tall for the rule of law and freedom everywhere." What rule of law is he referring to? It certainly can’t be international law since the US does not adhere to international law. It’s the same kind of statement his pal Bush would make and it is every bit the reason why his campaign has stalled. Millions are figuring out that there really isn’t all that much difference between the two parties. While this daily routine of lies unfolds on the computer or television screen, or in conversation, one can not help but feel subjected to the frustrating denial-anger-acceptance-regret loop that is common when dealing with death and disease. Can insanity or capitulation be far behind?
Just Say No
Such is the twisted reality that is life here in America and that in many respects approximates the political and cultural environment that the people of Hungary, Poland and the former Czechoslovakia were subjected to while under the heavy hand of the former USSR. But as Jonathan Schell points out in the Unconquerable World, the solution was very simple. “One of their most original achievements was to discover a way to act and fight for more modest, immediate goals without challenging the main structure of totalitarian power head on.” Citing former Czechoslovakian Vaclav Havel’s 1978 essay Living in Truth, Schell provides a hint at what approach Americans might adopt to change a federal governing system over which they currently have no control. And it is as simple as taking a look in the mirror and thinking local. “Living in the truth stood in opposition to living in the lie which meant living in obedience to an oppressive regime…By living within the lie, that is, conforming to the system’s demands, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system and become the system. A line of conflict is then drawn through each person who is invited in the countless decisions of daily life to choose between living in the truth and living in the lie.”
Schell goes on to say that Havel rejected labels such as “opposition” as too negative. That might be one of the first acts that Americans undertake as they ditch a two party system that conveniently provides for two labels: liberal and conservative. “People who define themselves do so in relation to a prior position. In other words they relate themselves specifically to the power that rules society and through [that power] define themselves, deriving their own position from the position of the regime. For people who have simply decided to live within the truth, to say aloud what they think, to express their solidarity with their fellow citizens, to create as they want and simply to live in harmony with their better self, it is naturally disagreeable to feel required to define their own, original and positive position negatively…” or, for that matter, so narrowly.
Thinking such as this over in Poland led to the formation of the Worker’s Defense Committee, according to Schell. “Its purpose was to give concrete assistance to workers in trouble with the authorities—assistance that the organization referred to as social work. Help was provided to the families of workers jailed by the government. Independent underground publications multiplied. A flying university which offered uncensored courses in people’s apartments and other informal locations were founded. Organizations devoted to social aims of all kinds—environmental, education, artistic, legal—sprouted.”
Americans are certainly capable of breaking the stranglehold that its new age Soviets have on the federal system of government. But it will never happen through the electoral process. And it is easy to call for the masses to rise and break the back of the capitalists. But that is unrealistic. As Schell notes, leaders in countries dominated by the former USSR knew that violent revolution and mass protests would only harden the regime which possessed all the tools of oppression—the military and the media chief among them. Such an uprising would only harden the USSR’s response. Similarly, here in the USA, those with the most to lose in the federal system, entrenched Republicans and Democrats and their legions in the bureaucracy, the military and the media--would respond the same way. US history is replete with examples of college students, minorities and unions killed or defamed for their refusal to live in the lie.
Americans need to study the pages of Havel’s playbook and the look at the structures of the Worker’s Defense Committee and stop living in the lie. They might organize an array of boycotts aimed at reducing the power of the federal system as it is operated today. Oddly enough, the system is vulnerable where it appears strongest—financially. It wouldn’t take much to rattle the economy by boycotting corporations or nonprofits who perpetrate the lies on a daily basis. Such an action, carried on at length, would send corporate types running to their cohorts in Washington, DC to fix the problem or, perhaps, it might stop the flow of campaign funds from corporations to the very worst of the lot in any of the three branches of government. The Internet makes the task more realistic as groups could securely communicate the Boycott of the Month or Year throughout the USA and the world. On the other hand, is their a law against not buying something? What if 10 million Americans stopped going to Walmart for three months? What if 20 million Americans stopped watching Fox News for a year? You can bet your last Euro that corporate executives would mob the US Congress and the White House and take a look at the public’s demands.
And what if the residents of the 300 local American communities--who have passed resolutions condemning the PATRIOT Act--formed their own Worker Defense Committees and linked them together in a national confederation. Might there be a way through such an alliance to help the hungry, homeless, unemployed and, uninsured of the land? The federal government, such as it is, certainly will not. Perhaps such a group could provide an Internet and traveling version of the flying classroom that provides non-censored history and economics lessons to America’s children.
There is simply no way other way to change the federal system of government as it is being operated by the current crew of Republicans and Democrats, our very own homegrown Soviets. Fanciful? Perhaps. But if Americans do not act soon and in some fashion, Ben Franklin’s apocalyptic vision of totalitarian rule in America may become a reality within the next few years. Speaking at the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, Franklin uttered these words. “In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
John Stanton is a Virginia based writer specializing in political and national security matters. He is the author of the forthcoming book A Power, But Not Super. He is also the author along with Wayne Madsen of America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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