Friday, November 09, 2012

A House Divided

My friend Lisa seems to be borne down by the vicious divisiveness exposed to the naked light of day this past Tuesday.

"The question is," she writes, "will the majority of us embrace the mission set out for us as a nation 250 years ago and find the needs of the commonweal to be a higher calling than or our own vested interests, or will we continue down the mean and petty road of "No, I won't", and "More for me"?

To which I can simply say, sadly; no, and yes, probably.

If you look at the general run of U.S. history the country has pretty much been built on a foundation of "No, I won't.", "Where's mine?", and "More for me."

We want everything and don't want to pay for it. And we don't want to do it anyone else's way unless we have to.

We only make the hard choices when we have to; when there's NO other way, when someone or someones force us by giving us only two choices; their way or the highway, and their way is unacceptable to us.
Two hundred fifty years ago (as best we can guess) about two-thirds of the people living in what eventually became the United States either hated the whole idea of the thing or could have given a shit.

They forced the people who wanted a new nation to fight them for it.

Even among the portion that DID want a new nation things were...let's just say not all hand-holding and kumbaya. Yes, brave men and women WERE fighting together to forge a new nation.

At the same time, disgruntled contractors were dunning the Continental Congress for damages and refusing to take American paper money while Washington's Army was getting handed its ass on Long Island. Even after the victory a sizable group of the victorious officers nearly staged a coup to get their back pay.

A generation later slaveholder and abolitionist tore the nation apart fighting over who would get what, and then the fight to rein in the robber barons of capitalism and win a decent working wage took decades.

The people who believed that ALL men were created equal, and that all men deserved a safe workplace, decent wages, and a day of rest had to fight for those things, too. They had to make the hard choice to fight or surrender.
We have never been a particularly harmonious nation.

Today we have a political right that has taken on the intellectual baggage of a cult; it believes in the good of things that the bulk of us find either ridiculous or actively harmful - tax cuts forever and always, the end of the New Deal, deregulation of everything, crony capitalism, endless war overseas and rigid domestic conformity at home.

It insists in getting its way not because its way is "better" but because it sees that as the only way. As the British Crown did in 1776 and the Southern Confederacy did in 1860 and the Rockefellers and Goulds did in 1889. They didn't see themselves as one side of a debate. They saw themselves as "legitimate" and the other side as rebels, heretics, fools; as illegitimate and wrong.

That sort of logic can't BE "compromised" with; a nation or a group confronted with such intransigence can only - as it did in 1781 and 1865 and through the long fight to tame the malefactors of great wealth - become all one thing or all the other.

Obviously, I don't want to become what Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh want my nation to become.

So, for me, they must be destroyed. For me, their needs are not the needs of the commonweal. They see no reason to compromise with me.

Fine. I will fight them, then.
But that's a feature, not a bug.

This factional fighting must be, as the issue of independence, as the issue of slavery, as the issues of the 40-hour week and the 8-hour day had to be, fought to a conclusion.

As with King George or Jefferson Davis or Andrew Carnagie, we are either with Grover Norquist or against him.

And that may mean that the road from here leads through dark places. But any nation wishing to BE one nation must follow that hard and unforgiving road to its conclusion.
We may well regret living in the nation we live in today - I'll bet many of the Americans of 1777, and 1859, and 1895 wished they had lived in a happier, more peaceful, more harmonious time - but if we are to be true citizens and not merely passive subjects we cannot avoid the hard choices that come with living in our time and our place.


Lisa said...

Very well said. And will we be true citizens or passive subjects ... that's the question.

When we are told that trolling through the aisles of COSTCO make us good citizens, when we believe blind obedience to our particular "cult" makes us loyal and good, then we are passively existing, and make the best of whatever scarps or hardships come our way.

Far too many have lost the concept of a participative democracy. The game's been rigged for a long time, so those who are not merely lazy are often disillusioned. That gives a broad field for the jackals.

Since we've been here, most humans are not patricians but plebes, so we are well-adjusted to that long-suffering mindset at the hands of our betters.

Ael said...

I am afraid that putting faith in the democratic party is much like a teenager snagged for possession putting their faith in the "good" cop. Bound for disappointment.

There are no obvious alternatives, however.

FDChief said...

Ael: Yep. As I said in the post titled "Poison and the Rope" the difference is one more of degree.

But...that degree IS a crucial one. The possibility of a short stop at the end of a GOP rope would be a real disaster for this nation. Given our ignorance, credulity, and fear I have faith that we'd flee shrieking to the first Man on Horseback.

gruff said...

If you do fight I hope you study your enemy as well as the Afghans did at Dargai.