Four Years Ago...
The symptoms of disease can escape the victim for a long time, but the infestation of American life with politics is beginning to be more noticeable of late. A fish rots from the head and the gathering of power by our politicians, coupled with all the abuse and petty tyrannies that are inseparable from any man’s addiction to rule, is filtering down into the commoners in a twisted version of the trickle down theory.
Our manner of speaking to one another is altering to reflect how the political is gaining the upper hand in so much of our lives. It can be seen in the corpulent peasants ambling through Wal-Mart half-dazed in their “Don’t Tase Me Bro!” t-shirts, in the tearful father begging Obama to provide some divine intervention, and in John Turturro’s character from Transformers holding up his government I.D. and snarling at a mere civilian “you see this? This is a do whatever I want and get away with it badge”. It is seen in the Joaquin Phoenix character from We Own The Night who - after he turns into a snitch for the local police and is secretly inducted into their ranks – holds up his shiny new government I.D. and snarls at the friend he’s betrayed “this is a do anything badge”.
America’s blasé attitude towards even the most blatant abuse of power is seen in our labeling Harold and Kumar 2 Escape from Guantanamo Bay as a comedy, as if a torture chamber run by a group of turncoats is something to laugh about. That inhumane attitude for what we are allowing our politicians to perform on foreigners will filter down into our everyday as sure as a stone will sink. War, even one fought far from your soil, extracts a harsh price. Sometimes that price is not paid until years after the war comes to an end.
Congress is addicted to war, it is a supremely bi-partisan effort. War is and always has been the glory of the political class. They revel in it because like any junkie they always look for the ultimate high and war is the ultimate expression of political power, nothing concentrates it and makes the high so strong. It’s a speedball compared to voting on farm legislation, say.
If history teaches anything it is that in a country with such a high concentration of power, if the political class can’t have a war against foreigners they will have one against a chosen domestic enemy. In a country like modern America, one where the prevailing attitude towards the rule of law is so weakened, this will make the end of America’s Empire, whenever it may come, not a step towards liberty for our people but quite the opposite.
When all those troops come home, honed by years of minutely controlling civilian populations (and getting violent to any show of resistance) they will be looking for something to do – and the politicians will be looking to provide it for them. The American people no longer see any reason for the Posse Comitatus Act, and more than likely have no idea what it is, so I see into the future on my daily commute to New York City. Everywhere paramilitary police units in body armor and sub-machine guns stand about with Army soldiers, their weapons strapped hard and black to their bodies.
We already have the attitude of submission necessary for this aspect of the war to come home. A military over a million strong, trained into a razor sharp ability to control and bully disarmed civilians, combined with a thoroughly submission people is a tool that Congress will be happy to use. It is not so dangerous that US soldiers have the willingness to do such things as they do; soldiers have always mindlessly obeyed any order they might be given. What is so sad, and dangerous, is that the attitude towards power among Americans is perfectly suited to accept the domestic use of our military as necessary and proper.
My entire life I have known nothing but war or the threat of it – it never goes away. If it is not a War on Terror, it is a Cold War, or a War on Drugs, or a War on Poverty, and for every conflict we pull the noose tighter around our own neck. I remember years ago Ronald Reagan getting in a good zinger at poor Peanut Jimmy with his famous shout to the voters “ask yourself, are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Right there tells you everything you need to know about Reagan, and about Americans in general.
The proper question should have been “ask yourself, are you more or less free than you were four years ago?” Go ahead, ask yourself.