Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Not Even With a Whimper...

How I saw it all playing out in '06
Living through the ugly brutality and breathtaking hubris of the GW Bush years, I increasingly became convinced of one thing.  Though it was hard to say when it might happen, it was crystal clear to me that the American people were being pushed to the breaking point, that the rise of the authoritarian surveillance state that eviscerated the fourth amendment and assumed everyone was a criminal to be watched and regularly interrogated alongside the aggressive militarization of the United States, the blatant, unapologetic, almost gleeful corruption and an intentional rush toward massive inequality would eventually cause the people to rise up and reassert their values.  I took it as nothing less than an article of faith that, at some point, protest and civil disobedience would lead to violent clashes, and as the authoritarian state grew increasingly brutal in its defense of its own privilege, that violence would lead to some kind of open revolt, as the people, seeing their future and that of their children stolen from them, waged war against those who were so clearly stealing it.

Part of the basis for my certainty around this future was the incredible availability of powerful, lethal small arms in American Communities.  That, coupled with what can only be described as the institutionalization of two "tribes" in America, loosely described as "Liberal" and "Conservative" and the rise of ideological hatred and intolerance, seemed to direct all roads to a clash of ideas, of ideals, of values, of hope vs. power.

And when that populist fury exploded with the 'Occupy' protests, I could sense it was beginning.  Sure enough, the mechanisms of the state fought back with excessive violence, and the hate from the 'tea-party' Right was palpable.  All the pieces were in place for the expected paroxysm that would remake America into something different than what it had become.  Then the weather turned cold.  The new TV season started.  People lost interest, wandered off, went home.  Occupy found itself abandoned, without occupants.  Once again, Americans found things just weren't bad enough to sustain real effort, real sacrifice.  They could make it another year, probably, if they didn't get sick and the car didn't break and the rent didn't increase TOO much.

And now we see the rabid, spittle-spewing tea-partying right wing threatening violent revolution, blood in the streets, but not over inequality or an opaque, authoritarian government, but over...proposed firearms regulations.  They say THIS is the tyranny that we have these guns to resist.  THIS is the liberal government overreach that will push us beyond our limits.  Fear us, they say, for we are legion. But you know what?  If we have learned anything from our experience in the last 25 years, it's that this is all talk, no matter how much the individuals believe the fantasy.  When confronted with the stark choice of violent, armed revolt or a couple beers and a barbecued tri-tip, the revolution begins to look less inviting.  And when life, even as it is today, is measured against prison or death, the choice becomes simple, and the talk trails off to a self-conscious silence.

Make no mistake, we can certainly expect to see right-wing acts of violence and domestic terrorism in the four remaining years of the Obama era.  The rhetoric has gotten far too overheated, the issues framed in such apocalyptic, existential terms, that there are those with the right combination of mental illness and ideological indoctrination who will break things and hurt people.  Oklahoma City and Waco and Ruby Ridge have taught us all we need to know about that toxic cocktail.  But will their friends and fellow travelers rise up with them, beginning a fight for the soul of America?  No, of course not.  Their friends will read the newspaper, shake their heads and head off to another day at work.  Because Americans just aren't suffering in large enough numbers, the future is insufficiently bleak and there is still far too much hope for any real popular rebellion.

But there is no hope of ever fixing the system from within.  The electoral system is bizarre, the system of governance is an obsolete oddity, and the entire process is deeply corrupt at its very core.  Either the wealthy will find a way to keep the system in some kind of equilibrium, with enough people earning enough money to keep a lid on the fear, frustration and hopelessness over the long term, or, much more likely in my estimation, they will continue to follow the edicts of their own greed and hubris, and at some point Americans will burn it down and start over.  But if we have learned anything, it's that a reckoning like that is a long way off.


  1. All the pieces were in place for the expected paroxysm that would remake America into something different than what it had become.

    No mention of our hope and change President, mikey?

  2. Well, no. He doesn't have a role in this narrative. He's better than Bush. He's better than McCain. He's better than Romney. That's why he's President. Is he some kind of evidence that the system isn't utterly dysfunctional and hopelessly corrupt? Of course not. I don't really understand why you have trouble grasping this very simple concept...

  3. If I didn't know better, I'd think you were casting about naively looking for a simple explanation for a complex set of problems. But surely that can't be the case, can it?

  4. a long way off
    Torn between being happy I'll miss the reckoning & being sorry I'll miss it.