State of the Union
New -- 20 June 2005
The State of the Union (of the United States of America) should in its essence be the State of the Republic. That is to say, what is the condition of the Republic which was prepared for us and our descendants a bit over 225 years ago? In effect, these questions are about the degree to which the American voting citizenry has avoided the Perils of Democracy. To what degree, for example, have we maintained the Republic and simultaneously avoided creating the State of a duly elected Tyranny?
As of the above date, not too good. One might even say, "dismal".
It's not as if there has been the wholesale collapse of the Social Insecurity system. At least not yet. Nor has the Infernal Revenue Service attached every asset of the middle class of America... yet. And it's not like there's massive food riots in the streets of Iowa City, nor cities on fire from urban riots (for all the many and varied reasons one might revolt from the average urban area). There may have been isolated and continuing problems in all of these areas, but as long as it's not right in our faces...
Of course, such comforts as knowing that the end of the world is at least seven years away has tended to decrease the amount of press on the dismal state of affairs. And as long as we have elections which tend to follow the time exalted premises: "Keep it simple, stupid" (KISS) and/or "It's the economy, dumbkoft" (ITEDK), one will likely be able to conclude that everything is moving along pretty well. The fact that the trend is one of a downward, increasingly slippery slope has not quite gained the attention of the vast majority of people.
The problem is the proverbial frog dilemma.
The story goes that a frog is placed in a small but charming aquarium where all of the necessities and luxuries normally anticipated by the frog are met. For our stalwart frog, it's like living in a penthouse on Fifth Avenue. Life is good. But then the research types (dastardly people that they are) begin slowly removing the bare necessities, reducing the ability of the frog to do its thing, allowing the frog's water and air to be slowly polluted, and by gradual increments reducing the size of the frog's space (aka "cage"). This process continues until at one point, the frog -- without a whimper or apparent awareness of its vanishing life -- keels over and... well... croaks.
The fundamental problem we are currently facing is that with vanishing freedom and liberty, the quality of life of the vast majority of people will be correspondingly degraded -- until such time as they or the quality of their lives similarly croaks. It's not just the economy or some simplistic argument about family values. It's the loss of basic rights wherein one can pursue their own individual form of happiness. It's the attempt to do away with diversity and force everyone into an ever diminishing range of choices, to counteract basic human sovereignty. It's to standardize us in order to better manage us. As James C. Scott has noted :
The problem derives from many sources, but the primary source is a government (or multiple governments) run amuck. And the most visible indicator of this running about as if the sky is falling is the group of chickenhawks who gleefully launch wars. These are not wars to end war, but wars to create wars. They are Oil Wars, Bush Wars, War Wars and inevitably Water Wars.
The deleterious effects of wars -- in addition to the obvious wounds, deaths, and dismemberments of countless numbers of soldiers, civilians, other forms of life, and various and sundry infrastructures -- is that they inevitably degrade the freedom, liberty, and civil rights of everyone. James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, recognized the problem in part when he wrote:
Madison's words are well worth emphasizing. War seeks always to bring "the many under the domination of the few" -- emphasis on "domination". Fraud and corruption can be multiplied with virtual impunity. Many minds are "FoxNews" seduced. There is a degeneracy of manners and morals -- not the least among those fighting for their lives in a foreign Bush War. But more than anything...
In other words, Freedom cannot long survive for a nation in an open-ended war against terrorism, communism, fundamentalism (the religion of the other guys, not ours), and/or every other ism. As has been said, "war has no good reasons, only good excuses."
Despite its clarity and accuracy , Madison's brief analysis doesn't go quite far enough; that is to say it does not include potential horrors which from the perspective of the 18th Century were simply not even imagined. This might include, just for starters, the use of depleted uranium in military weaponry. Such use will inevitably result in substantial increases in birth defects of new borns -- and less obviously the gradual degradation of health for everyone on the planet.
Benjamin Franklin, another of those revolutionaries in the latter half of the 18th Century, has written :
And if there is anything that is threatening of one's safety -- or more precisely the perceived threatening of one's safety -- it's war and all of the machinations involved in its justification.
Because of the inherent horrors of war, the founding fathers of the United States tried to incorporate in their radically new Constitution a built-in safety factor whereby no one person could unilaterally force the nation into a war. Those residents of the 18th Century were all too familiar with kings and potentates who arbitrarily, stupidly , and often capriciously went to war -- and in the process disabled their economies, sometimes their kingdoms, and inevitably the minimal rights of his or her majesty's subjects.
The founding father's idea was really rather clever: Only a Congress could declare war. A single leader, the President, would be the leader in the conflict -- i.e. the Commander in Chief of the armed forces -- but the President alone could not declare war on his or her own. The idea was to prevent some moron -- with no real understanding of what it might mean to a soldier on the ground -- from sending others to war.
Then the United State Congress in 2002 tossed the Constitution of the United States aside and passed a resolution allowing the President to use his own (potentially demented) judgment in whether or not to war with Iraq. In fact, the Chairman of the House International Relations, Henry Hyde, said :
We would probably have been better off if Jekyll had been chairman instead.
This senior Congressman had taken an oath to defend the Constitution, and then he summarily decided that the Constitution "isn't done anymore."
But before we begin the recall election or lynching process for Congressman Hyde, perhaps we should note that a majority of members of Congress -- Republicans, Democrats, and other reprobates -- voted for the resolution, and thus jointly violated the Constitution of the United States, the same constitution to which they had each swore allegiance. And don't forget the Senators who were in the same boat, including John Kerry who ran for the Presidency on the ticket that the war in Iraq was not a good idea!
When it comes time to place some blame, and when all those responsible are removed from office, there's going to be a very serious vacuum -- power, political, and otherwise -- in Washington, D. C. The place will likely be entirely void of activity. Which, come to think of it, may be the best thing imaginable for the freedom and liberty of all other Americans.
But hey! It's water under the bridge, right? What's done is done.
Maybe it's time to bury the hatchet -- which is now probably radioactive and incapable of being forged into a plow anyhow -- and move on. The United States now has a nation with free elections to build! It's time to make the world safe for democracy... along with all its many perils. Life goes on -- at least for most of us outside the war zone.
One can only wonder how safe the rest of the world feels right now, knowing we're on the beat. Sigh.
Meanwhile, the war's effect on education, religion (including Dominionism), civil rights (assembly, speech, gender-related, and so forth), the economy, and the general health of everyone on the planet is clearly not a promising thing. The only hope in the midst is that more and more people are waking up and demanding an accountability -- even Republicans are starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the United States does not need to be at war! Something of a radical thought, but sometimes even the most obvious to open-minds becomes clearer to politicians.
And then, once the idiocy and hypocrisy of the situation is recognized, perhaps it can be set right. [I'm such an optimist!]
 James C. Scott, See Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (1998) -- as quoted by Toby Lester, "The Reinvention of Privacy," The Atlantic Monthly, March 2001.
 James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, "The Most Dreaded Enemy of Liberty," August 1793 (as quoted by Carl Worden at http://www.newnation.org/Archives/NNN-Guest-Column-28.html
 Walter Isaacson, "Citizen Ben's 7 Great Virtues", Time Magazine , July 7, 2003.
 There is the story of a king in the times of Greek city states who asked the Delphi Oracle what would happen if he went to war with a neighboring state. The Oracle's answer was that a great nation would be destroyed. The king then promptly went to war -- thinking it was the other guy's kingdom to which the Oracle referred. He was wrong and it was his kingdom which was destroyed by the war.
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