These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from service of their country…
Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
|Welcome to Donald Trump's Amerika.|
A blizzard of lies descended upon us and now sets in a season of stupidity and violence. The mild summer gave way to hopeful autumn, but now winter is here and we haven’t seen its like since Valley Forge. Thomas Paine pointed out that tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered and that what we acquire too easily, we esteem too lightly. The current generation of Americans acquired liberty too easily and esteemed it too lightly. Those who survive this crisis will not make that mistake again, but their grandchildren and great grandchildren probably will.
The United States of America was created two hundred and twenty seven years ago, based on older ideas of the sovereignty of the individual and radical ideas of “self-government.” The moment of conception of the United States occurred when Thomas Jefferson’s pen formed the words, “all men are created equal.” The infant nation was born thirteen years later in Philadelphia, when the delegates penned their names on the Constitution. In between came the first “American crisis,” so eloquently captured by Thomas Paine, which formed and shaped that unique document – the only mechanism human beings have ever created that effectively helps people acquire individual freedom.
|The only mechanism invented for gaining freedom.|
Fear that we are heading for oligarchic rule has fueled much public debate recently, but the truth is that this nation was founded as an oligarchy in Republican disguise. The Constitution was an offering from the oligarchic rulers fearful of true “social revolution.” It was designed to put the brakes on that revolution in order to “ensure the domestic tranquility.” This masterfully created document has served us well for nearly seven generations, making it possible for every American citizen to pursue happiness without ever capturing it. That mutual unhappiness and the attendant hope of its opposite allows us to live in uneasy peace with our fellow Americans, but it contains the seeds of crisis – the lessons of American democracy.
Now with my favorite city torn by riots as our privileged, frustrated youth and some of their irresponsible elders act out their justifiable outrage, I long for domestic tranquility. Soon our national temper tantrum will pass and we will be confronted with the reality of President Trump. Then, with frozen feet wrapped in bloody rags, we will know what it means to declare independence in the face of a tyrant. Our ancestors knew these lessons; they faced them in 1861, and in 1876, and in 1894, and in 1919, and in 1932, and in 1947, and in 1974, and in 2001. That’s just one of the problems of democracy.
|Our ancestors have learned these lessons over and over.|
My pedantic friends will be quick to say that this nation is not a Democracy, and as usual they are correct. American democracy, on the other hand, is a seven generation experiment that has consistently and steadily increased liberty; first to non-property owning white men, then to black and other “non-white” Americans, then to women. Each generation has expanded liberty for the individual and those who have tried to impede or roll back this progress have provided the crises from which we learn to govern ourselves. We face exactly such a crisis today.
The United States, infected by the founding lie of racism and its perversion “white supremacy,” still suffers from its “original sins:” slavery and Native American genocide. Our national hands are stained with the blood of oppression and massacre at home and around the world, but those same bloody hands have also given hope and succor to the persecuted people of the world. At heart America is kind and optimistic; but watch out! When our blood is up we have a violent mean streak. This was the dumping ground for Europe’s violent criminals and religious malcontents long before Donald Trump started complaining about immigration.
It makes no difference what you think of Donald Trump as a man: admire him, hate him. To me, he is nothing more than a pipsqueak, braggart and conman. His words are not worth the air he expels making them, but he has unleashed the worst elements of American culture. No wall will keep “foreigners” out of “our country.” The wall Donald Trump has already built is a wall against the tide of history. As our proud self-governed nation surges into its future – where the second word of “all men” is expanded to include every American regardless of personal consideration – it will wash away Trump’s Wall. But how much blood will it take?
|Ridicule is our most effective weapon.|
As a middle aged man in fragile health I fear violence and I love peace and domestic tranquility for personal reasons, but as a life-long committed activist for social justice I oppose violence for political reasons. As a student of history I have learned that violence has never solved any problem and has never settled any question other than: who’s on top? The only America I will accept is one where every American can pursue happiness individually; every American has the power to make important decisions about our community, our family and our health; every American is free to express themselves without persecution, hatred or violence; and, corporations are subordinate to individuals and cannot usurp individual rights. None of those things can be achieved with violence.
Most important – violence is a chump’s game. Violent resistance is Donald Trump’s meat. The more he is resisted the stronger he gets. The only weapons that the oppressed can effectively use against a tyrant are non-violent resistance based on universal moral principles; and, outrageous, obscene, funny ridicule. Expose the lies. Challenge the ignorance. Be funny and smart. Use your creativity and your individuality to create the America you want to live in. And watch your toes! It’s going to be a brutal winter.