Today is a solemn day for the world: in what purports to be the freest democracy of all time and a model for the blessings of liberty to the rest of the teeming rabble, a con man assumes the most powerful position in human history after campaigning on a platform of white populism, hatred, mockery, and child-like antics while losing the popular election by nearly three million votes. In the aftermath of that striking yet not unexpected event, he’s staffed his cabinet with billionaires and millionaires unlikely to support his commitment to restoring American manufacturing or the good old days of the middle class. He’s also devolved into tweet tantrums, lashing viciously out at any person or institution accurately or merely perceived to be critical of his decisions or picks. Indicative of the post-truth era which we’ll examine in a later post, Trump seems to deny any and all facts or opinions undermining his victory, agenda, or his shameful selection of inept, incompetent white men hankering to dismantle and destroy the few niceties the Obama administration offered, along with regulations, safeguards, and standards many Americans likely aren’t even aware exist. After all, Rick Perry didn’t seem to realize that the department of energy regulates nuclear weapons. Returning to Trump, if a poll appears demonstrating his historically unprecedented unpopularity, he simply denounces the poll as garbage. How can one fail with such a strategy? Unreasonable denial and skepticism remain crucial to the far right strategy, as suggested earlier in the Powell memorandum.
Echoing this inexplicable capacity to believe only those things conformant to one’s preexisting worldview, I’ve personally heard Trump supporters say that his petty and reckless use of Twitter
- to attack actress and political critic Meryl Streep and civil rights legend John Lewis,
- to offer himself outlandish congratulations on restoring U.S. jobs before even having taken office, and
- to boast about the need to escalate the threat of nuclear war
is the only way he can “tell the truth without distortion,” the dangerously tacit assumption being that Trump does indeed pursue and offer the truth, a notion for which contrary evidence abounds. More accurate is that now we have an easily bruised narcissist incapable of restraint in even the most trivial interpersonal matters holding more power for destruction than any other person ever in the roughly 200,000-year run of the human species.
Though the incoming syndicate of trolls poised to privatize education (no doubt brought to us by Focus on the Family and Amway), criminalize protests as “economic-terrorism,” eliminate climate change science, dissolve minimum wage, further enrich the foreclosure machine, and “make America gray again” with carcinogenic smog, fracked water tables, and coal plants on every street corner deserves much attention (after all, each and every one of these people are enemies to the white working class fervently supporting Trump), I’d prefer to address a more philosophical issue on the day of this heavily protested, under-attended inauguration.
While watching a few of the invocations, the undertaking of the two oaths, and Trump’s scathing, proto-fascist inaugural address this morning, I found myself frustrated not just at the brazen hypocrisy discussed above but also at the nagging, sickly sweet propaganda trumpeted at every such quadrennial spectacle. Chuck Schumer, Democratic senator from New York, read excerpts from a famous letter written near the beginning of the Civil War as a reminder of the persistent yet wholly inaccurate association of liberty with sacrifice through military might; as mentioned in earlier posts, the preponderance of freedoms in this country stem from dedicated popular resistance usually through the labor movements, most of which was nonviolent on the part of the resisters. The founding fathers, inappropriately yet consistently revered historically, could not envision nor would they have admitted franchise on the scale we experience today. The rendition of America, The Beautiful left me pondering whether the millions of exterminated Natives inhabiting this land when Europeans arrived would have appreciated the irony that a song commemorating the unvarnished beauty of the natural wilderness would be a centerpiece to the swearing-in of a man intent on promoting, or worse augmenting the much admired “manifest destiny” to conquer, pollute, and destroy half a continent from “sea to shining sea.” But most eye-catching to me was when one of the ministers offering a prayer suggested that the “leader’s heart is in God’s hands,” so we should pray that God give Trump wisdom to lead. Thus an elementary, fundamental query came to me: why do we need a leader at all, let alone the additional burden of casting hope in unseen forces that this leader not destroy the world?
I’ve long followed the anarcho-syndicalist school of thought that institutions of power must and should necessarily justify their existence. On the most basic level, if a person or entity intends to exercise control over another, she/he/it must offer a clear and convincing argument as to why such control need be. Not to be confused with the clownish rugged individualism masquerading as libertarianism today, anarcho-syndicalism much more closely mirrors classical liberalism and libertarianism. One can envision a highly organized, technological society imbued with authentic democracy in which all people share in the decision-making process, either through direct participation (referenda), or the election of representative power-brokers on a much more refined level. Imagine if instead of some 400 people representing nearly 300 million (meaning you might have to vie against 750,000 others for your representative’s attention unless you’re drowning in cash), our representation occurred say at the neighborhood level. Imagine if your congressperson lived a few blocks away. It would be very easy to elect one of your neighbors or run for office yourself, and neither party shenanigans, gerrymandering, nor corrupt political machines could silence opposition or conceal hardship of constituents. Local town halls in which you and your neighbors meet to discuss issues with your representative could be a mainstay with voluntary participation at various hierarchical levels. You’d connect with your fellow Americans in a very special and intimate way. You could enjoy access to the so-called free press, contributing opinions and local news, akin to worker presses circa 1840s (such as the once quite popular worker publication Voice of Industry.) This larger congress would much more closely mirror the population in demographics and perspectives, unfettered by the highly-restrictive two party system. Congress would no longer be able to ignore the will of the population as they have for perhaps the last generation and certainly throughout most of American history. We’d no longer be in perpetual war, complicit or directly responsible for savage butchery of hundreds of thousands of people, we’d achieve universal healthcare, participate in and return to worker-owned economies, reinstate the Charter of the Forest from Magna Carta written 800 years ago to preserve nature and resources for all people, begin to unravel the deeply entrenched xenophobia and atomization plaguing our culture since the founding, connect the disaffected white workers who support Trump with the black working class devastated by the economic policies of the last generation, among other things we’ll discuss in later posts.
Sound too good to be true? Much of the world was unaware of the savagery of war until Europeans arrived; the American societies Columbus conquered and vanquished were highly organized, mostly peaceful (“war” meant very light sparring usually with no casualties), and featured near gender equality and comfortable lifestyles.
So assuming we can attain a society of genuine democracy, how do we go about it within the framework of our ailing constitutional republic? A second constitutional convention would demand a peaceful, rewrite of an obsolete piece of parchment conceived over two hundred years ago to service white aristocracy; referenda on the state level could permit direct participation in its formulation. The rights of individuals and constraints on power enshrined within would better reflect the commonalities most Americans share, such as desire for freedom, clean water, decent living conditions, plentiful food, security, healthcare, and access to opportunity for self-advancement. Aside from the large congress mentioned above, a tribunal of limited tenure arbiters (read: not lifetime appointments) to oversee civil and criminal proceedings, and a bureaucracy to manage regulation, infrastructure, and human services, what else is needed? The congress could elect a handful of policy directors and the expected set of committees, but why have an executive with near limitless power to wage war, rip away protective regulation, refuse to enforce laws, set the entire agenda, and ignore the will of the population? Trump’s ascent crystalizes this central inquiry for me as I shiver at the impending ecological and nuclear disasters we may soon be facing. The fate of the species likely depends on what we, the American population and elites, choose to do next. The world likely cannot survive America’s farcical democracy much longer.