Happy Holidays Everyone! Look, i've brought you a present:
For your consideration, it's ... "YOUR Major American Scandals in Chronological AND Alphabetical Order [the Wikileaks-style edit]!"
OK, it's not really in perfect alphabetical, or chronological, order for that matter, but it does go from A--
--American Revolutionary Soldiers' Pay, Shay's Rebellion, the 3/5th Compromise, Sally Hemming, the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the Election of 1824, the Spoils System, the Trail of Tears, the Panic of 1837, Manifest Destiny, "54 Forty or Fight," that "Little Texas Border Dispute" 1846-1848, the Glanton Gang, the Know Nothings, Slave Codes, Dred Scott, James Buchanan's complete political career, Bleeding Kansas, CSA, Martial Law at the Maryland Statehouse, Andersonville Prison, the Conspiracy Behind John Wilkes Booth, the Johnson Impeachment, Credit Mobilier, the Whiskey Ring, the KKK, Black Codes, the Election of 1876, Boss Tweed, Union-Pacific, Standard Oil Trust, Haymarket Square, Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, the entire military career of Phillip Sheridan, or William Tecumseh Sherman, Indian Schools, the Oregon Land Fraud Scheme, Open Range, the Oklahoma Land Theft more genteelly laughed off as "those Silly Sooners-guffaw," the Chinese Exclusion Act, Plessey V Ferguson, the "Annexation" of Hawaii, the USS Maine, our Philippines "Stewardship," Food Poisoning of Army Rations in Spanish-American War, the Leadville Strike, the Tacoma Massacre, Joe Hill, Eugene V. Debs, the Sedition Act of 1918, Prohibition, the Red Scare, Warren G Harding, Teapot Dome, Sacco & Vanzetti, Prescott Bush, "The Crash," the Bonus Army Riots, the Tuskegee Experiment and its Guatemalan cousin, our overall Guatemalan/Central American "policies" in general, Executive Order 9066, the Dresden Bombing, the Nazi NASA, Arbenz, Mosaddegh, the Bracero Program, Strange Fruit, Downwinders, George Wallace, Joe McCarthy, Lunch Counter Strike (or just name your major southern city in any time in any century), the Election of 1960, JFK-RFK-MLK, Gulf of Tokin, every breathing moment of Richard Nixon, Agent Orange, Ear-Necklaces, Cambodia, Laos, Air America, Co-Intel-Pro, Operation Northwoods, Watergate, Salvador Allende, Chappaquiddick, SOA, Karen Silkwood, S&Ls, Iran-Contra, David Dukes, Ab-Scam, Diablo Canyon, the Lockheed Bribery "Deal of the Century," White Water, Mina, Arkansas Airport, the Run-Up to Iraq I, DU, Gulf War Syndrome Cover-up, the Keating Five, Hinckley, CA, George Ryan's Trucker's License Bribery Deal, Election of 2000, Enron, WTC7, the Run-Up to Iraq II, Scott Ritter and Hans Blix, WMDs, the various times missing billions of dollars have been "lost" in Iraq, Katrina & the Army Corps of Engineers cover-ups, Karzai the Opium merchant, Pat Tillman, Terri Schiavo, Patriot Act, Bridge to Nowhere, all the way from A (Abu Ghraib) --
-- to Xe.
There you go. You like your present? I really could just go on and on, couldn't i? All this annoying, not-nice history. And that's just the list i could think of. Bring out your own dead. The closer you look, the more there is to see. Our government has often betrayed us and ignored the people's attempts to make it behave. In fact, it's happened so often it IS the routine. How icky, how unpleasant. It is easier to simply dream of an "America that is always right and just and good," without all that ugly history stuff getting in the way. What's a slacker to do?
Luckily, the Millionaire's Club is here to help. You poor peons shouldn't have to think about this kind of thing. Just go sit in your boxes made of ticky-tacky, turn on the Idiocracy Channel, "stare at 'Funbags' there and enjoy your Brawndo. It's got the electrolytes that your body craves!"
Don't worry, be happy. Ignorance is Bliss. And Strength too, for that matter.
And, of course, once they have killed Julian Assange, that wicked Wikileaker, you will never have to hear of these unpleasant, icky, downright Un-American American historical embarrassments again. That whole Orwell thing about "who controls the past, controls the future, who controls the present now, controls the past"? It wasn't just a cool line co-opted for a Rage Against the Machine song; it was very much a notice of the kind of universal memory a public can be willing to sacrifice in favor of the comfort of illusions and how rapidly that public can sell that memory for a pitiful portion of porridge when they think they need to, to keep the Millionaires' Club happy.
As we, the people, consider joining in the public burning of the heretic Assange, and contributing our anger to the international war on the very inconvenient truths Wikileaks exposes, let's take a second to consider who and what it is we are actually destroying.
WWJC, indeed? ("Who Would Jesus Crucify?")
That's right, that's what it's come down to dear readers, members among the powers-that-be are calling for you to call for the death and destruction of the kind of people who remind us of our leaders' failures to live up to the same ideals they force us to espouse ad nauseam. The 21st Century Pharisees and Sadducees are calling for us all to stone the prophet, sacrifice him to protect our ignorance, and on cue we blindly fling our fistful of gravel at the straw-man Assange, and join in the call to silence the truth.
The truth is, folks, America-as-we-know-it depends on and defends some ugly, ugly secrets. And until we change that, we can't possibly achieve America-as-we-dream-it. Don't get me wrong. I love America, but, like any other lover of any self-destructive sometimes suicidal sweetheart, I accept that sometimes, even the love of your life, sometimes, does the wrong thing, sometimes mistakenly and sometimes on purpose and, when you realize it, that love, be it spouse, or child, or country, that love has to be snapped back to its senses. You have to work to change it, and that work is your show of your love.
I admire the American Spirit. We are a people and a mythos of amazing accomplishment and it has led to the fantasy of universal great wealth. Oh there is great wealth all right. There's supposedly something like fourteen trillion dollars in GDP. But it's not for us consumers; we actually owe something on the scale of sixteen trillion in personal debt. Who do we owe it to? Well, the richest 5% own like 90% of everything, so we probably owe it right back to them.
How did that happen? We let them set it up this way. See our government, our rich, and our racists, usually in the same room, have done crooked things to us and been inhumane to the rest of the world for forever, and they've never really wanted us to pay too much attention to their follies. In the meantime, our citizens have done shameful things to each other since Day One as well. This is our history, a room littered with corpses, one wonders why we allow the facade that each new outrage is to be treated as an anomaly.
Yep, that's our history from A-Z, a history of disgrace, starting with our own most important heroes, the American Revolutionary War Soldiers. That's right, never forget, we're a country that started out not paying the soldiers who fought in our own national battle for independence. Volunteers who risked everything, many who lost everything, average citizens of uncommon valor and endurance, fighting our battles to gain our own nationhood as a republic of free slave-owning men, and as soon as that war was over, and we'd won our war to be free to own slaves, we betrayed those very soldiers who fought it for us.
Tough break, couldn't pay 'em, well, wouldn't anyway, at any rate, we didn't pay them in the end. Sent 'em packing, better luck next time. Know why? Folks didn't want to pay the taxes. That's right, the Articles of Confederation Government said they felt they already had too much debt and didn't want to raise taxes. So our first founding fathers screwed over our very own revolutionary army and then told everyone it was all going to be all right and everyone would behave from now on. And you can see how it's gone since then. You may have noticed the fairly long paragraph above.
Here's the truth: If you REALLY want to go back in the day, to a time when man was truly "free,'" you'd have to go back before agriculture, and even before organized hunting and gathering clans, back to a time when man was truly wild and purely free for sure, but often hungry, cold and miserable most of the time. Yes, even "freedom" has its limits, and as Hobbes once pointed out, life before organized social/governmental structures was "solitary, brutish and short." So mankind had to allow himself to be tamed in exchange for daily bread. And since that day, the ones who own the bread, own the rules.
If you were to accurately consider the timeline of the human historical period (about 5000BCE to present, say 7000 years of "civilized" history), about 90% of all the people who ever lived, lived in a society where the few powerful (the kings, the priests, the rich), have ridden the rest of us like serfs. Whatever the excuse used--glory, gold, or god--a ruling elite have been a given throughout history, despite the idea of rugged American Individualism.
Which is not to say that America is not a place where many can float through life and a few can make it beyond their wildest dreams, frequently by screwing someone else over. Remember that the richest one percent equals over three million people and that that richest 5% make a multitude the size of New York. And for much of the 20th Century, the rich and powerful in America kept their unspoken social contract with the public of America. There was plenty of bread; there were plenty of circuses.
Then the concept of constraint on business began to erode around Reagan's time and the plutocracy, no longer satisfied with mere hyperbolic wealth, began lusting for the astronomical. Forget the billions we hear about that Wall Street gives themselves as seasonal treats. That's a pittance next to the long green they're really riding. At a time when the total personal assets are a mere fifty-four trillion and the total US debt is over fifty-five trillion, the plutocracy has us leveraged in currency and credit derivatives to the tune of over five hundred and seventy six trillion. Yes, i am using the "t" word.
You only use numbers like that to measure galaxies, not GPDs, especially not when one out of every four kids is surviving on free school food. But this is the pass we have come to. The rich are no longer thinking of money in terms as an actual thing, but more as ideas of numbers that require scientific notations. The only way actual humans experience such a monetary scale is during periods of Weimar Republic-style hyperinflation where it's cheaper to burn money than to buy firewood, or in early1990s Yugoslavia, when the entire country blew apart.
Neither of those are a place or a time i hope to have my country taken back to; but as the plutocracy that runs this world is getting hungrier and feeling that old time religion, we are reverting to an aristocracy and a serfdom right before our very eyes. Through my life i have watched this menace grow, but the news lately cries out the truth as never before. This last couple of weeks have been overwhelming. Just like the corporatist nightmare future of every sci-fi dystopia, the rich are currently seizing their power with the Congress they just purchased for the task.
It's up to us to let them get away with it or not.
The recent Republican landslide will be a test to see how many 21st Century Americans are actually ready to party that hearty when we're talking Tea Party style, as in like it's 1773. First, as i noted in an earlier column, through recent speeches and campaign party platforms, it seems the true goals of the Tea Party movement aren't just some open ended "Take America Back" to some unspecified place and time, but to specifically take American governmental operations and social norms back to the ideas of the failed Articles of Confederation. You know, no national taxes, no governmental restraint of business practices, and state sovereignty over federal preeminence.
We all know how well that worked: it didn't. We scrapped it within six years.
The new idea was supposed to reach beyond the dog-eat-dog hierarchy and form a society based on establishing the kind of justice that both insures domestic tranquility and secures liberty, all the while providing for the common defense. It was an amazing goal, a wonderful myth. The idea of committing a government, on paper anyway, to "[promoting] the general welfare" was somewhat novel in 1787 among world governments.
If only we had had any actual intentions of keeping our word. It's always been a battle to deal with the reality of the rich and powerful running everyone's lives. And their partners in crime, our government has lied to us continuously and brazenly and then indignantly when we realized to dispute. From the beginning the government was not designed for the empowerment of the people. No matter what sham "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" -type America cartoons like Rush and Beck bleat and bray about, the initial American concept of "universal suffrage" actually only extended to about 8% of the population. As the history books so delicately phrase it, "Native Americans, African Americans and women were not considered part of the political process, so they were not included."
Neither, btw, were poor people include in the decisions in their government. Property rights were necessary for enfranchisement up till the 1820s, and the 1st presidential election the poor could and did vote en masse was in 1824. When the poor then voted in Andrew Jackson, a former poor orphan, though Jackson got more votes, a Washington backroom deal gave the presidency to the son of a former president, in that case John Quincy Adams.
Now, as the newly elected crop of GOP cranks prepare to take office, Judson Phillips, the president of Tea Party Nation, is calling for a return to property rights as a valid criteria for being qualified to vote. If you ever wanted for proof the Tea Party's idea of "way back when" involved servants and masters, look no further. Remember the "we the people" who were supposed all created equal actually referred only to White male taxpaying property owners, who had also signed their respective state's religious oaths of church loyalty. Keep in mind that despite the supposed freedom of and/or from religion written right into Article Six (1787) and the First Amendment (1791), religious oaths were common till about 1810.
Another old school idea currently being floated by the right is that those who don't pay federal income taxes should not be allowed to vote either. Not just those who refuse to file a return altogether, but even any law abiding citizens whose wages fall so low they owe nothing on the federal form would be summarily disenfranchised. I guess, according to Millionaires' Club rules, in the ultimate free market even your vote could bought and sold just like that. If the whole country is a seller's market, will anything ever be free?
And there is definite cause to worry as our reins of power shift hands from the do-little Democrats to these marketers of the Millionaires' Club. To be fair, there never has honestly been any pretext that the Congress of our country were truly the people's people. Sure, throughout the past they were always just the ones we were told we were picking, but now, more than ever before, those who buy their way into the statehouse then use that power to ensure the rich stay rich. As Bernie Sanders laid out in recent speeches before Congress, 80% of all the new money that has come into the system in the last 40 years has gone to the wealthiest 1% of the people. Right now about 12 cents out of every dollar goes to the richest one tenth of one percent. We are a nation that has 400 billionaires, at the same time one in seven Americans survives because of food stamps.
We will see how much they think they can get away with. Here in AZ, my not-so-lovey-dovey govey, Jan the Bruja, is already sharpening up her scalpel to lash away enough social services in the midst of her stalled economy to allow her to afford the lifestyle to which she's personally become accustomed, and, to continue to cut rich people's taxes in the upcoming budget. Jan is committed to making tax cuts a part of a working budget, even if she has amputate the state medical program that assists with organ transplants to do it. Which she has in fact now done, saying it's just too expensive to keep people alive when millionaires are needing their tax cut. Note the logic: taxes for the wealthy = necessary, life saving medical procedure for the average folk = unnecessary. You run along and die now poor person; soon you may not even be able to vote about it.
Then there came the belittlement of the meeting between Obama and Congressional GOP leaders. Not the part where the media dismissively tagged the critical event as the "Slurpee Summit;" but the following day when the 42 GOP good old boys from the US Senate sent their letter to the president promising to stall any and all legislation until they'd gotten their tax cut for the wealthy, even emergency health care for 9/11 1st Responders, i felt the gauntlet had been tossed. The rich will take care of the rich 1st or we won't take care of you at all.
Unemployment for millions did not matter at all unless the richest were guaranteed their right to send the government further in debt. And who were "our" politicians, sent to represent US, but instead were voting to do this for us/to us? They're the rich of course. And whom did Obama obediently bowed down to, to be allowed to afford to send out 13 more months of bread for the poor people to go with their circuses, and possibly even enough to afford a couple of extra lumps of coal for the old Christmas stocking.
"T'is the season to sing hymns of praise. Praise the rich, their kindness and mercy! We now resume with our regularly scheduled programming." Is that really what America looks like these days?
How many Assanges will we have to kill to hide those untidy facts? Are you still so sure to take up stones against the man, when he's merely revealing the fact that it is the machine that is trying to destroy you? And so dear readers, ponder this as you fondle your chunk of coal and wonder where the money went: History is like "Net Neutrality," or justice for that matter. If it doesn't matter enough to you to take care of it, then those nice folks who work for that nice old Millionaires' Club can always take it away from you ... if you'd like to let them.
They've done such wonderful work for us in the past. Of course we can trust them again, can't we? Aren't you glad to let your future rest in their hands? We are about to have a new year, that's for sure. Hope it's a present we want to be opening.
--mikel weisser writes from the left coast of AZ.