Saturday, February 9, 2013
I swore I was not going to write about the gun debate that has followed the latest mass murder. It seemed an exercise in futility. Trying to convince people that they are wrong on gun control is like trying to influence their views on abortion. Attitudes and opinions are fixed on the issue. There is little chance that one more opinion will change them. Recently, the conversation took an interesting turn, one that is new to the ongoing debate on gun control. The idea that we have to have personal weapons to fight our own government went from being a fringe idea to a mainstream argument, defended by conservatives and many pro-second amendment liberals.
It has been obvious to every thinking American for some time that something is terribly wrong with our current government. If we could agree in what that was we might be able to fight it without resort to guns. The nation is nearly evenly divided between those who fear a socialist takeover and those who believe that the problem is growing corporate dominance of government to the extent that it is leading to fascism, if it has not already arrived. If we do not come to a common understanding of what has gone wrong with the US system of government, it is likely that the incidence of political violence will continue to increase until we are subject to a violent crackdown by the very police state that so many of us fear.
The argument that America is being taken over by socialists is laughable on its face. With the social safety net under attack and a bailout of the medical insurance industry being passed off as “near-universal health care,” nothing could be further from the truth. Funneling taxpayer dollars to corporations that ship jobs overseas, those that profit from denying needed health care and those that manufacture weapons for insanely expensive wars for corporate Empire is in fact a form of corporate welfare serving the interests of the rich over those of the American taxpayer. That is worth fighting a revolution over, but one that can only succeed if it is done so through nonviolent, democratic action. That is impossible if we cannot come to a consensus on how democracy works and how best to achieve it.
It is easy to define democracy. The word translates literally as “government of the People.” That means government of, by and for the People. Not some people, but all people in the United States. If we cannot achieve consensus on what is best for all the people, we cannot create a government of the People. Instead, those who wield power over the government will continue to divide us until they ultimately conquer us. Those calling for revolution understand that it is our inalienable right and responsibility to resist a government that has become tyrannical. A government that is not for the People but for corporations and the wealthy individuals that control it cannot be said to be democratic.
Who then is the tyrant who dares challenge democracy in the US and the world? Many claim it is President Obama. On one side the radical Right argues that he intends to impose a socialist government that will dictate to the People. On the Left, the claim is made that there is no difference between Obama and George Bush in the arena of foreign policy and that he has been far too willing to sacrifice the interests of the People for the corporate interest that in fact wields control over both parties by virtue of controlling the corporate media and thereby the nature of political discourse. In fact, the blame lies squarely with a Congress that has abdicated its authority to an imperial Presidency, regardless of who is the figurehead in the White House in matters of war and peace.
If we truly want a democratic revolution, the Left and Right must first agree on goals, lest the US become another failed state, at best degenerating into a power struggle between the leaders of the revolution but far more likely to result in the consolidation of power by those who control the police state. As the response to Occupy has shown, these are the powerful banking and oil industries that colluded with agents of the police state in infiltrating and undermining this popular movement. The only way to overcome the power of those who control the levers of government is to united around the idea that together we can create a government of, by and for the People only by ending the power of corporations and the rich to choose who we have to pick from to represent us in Congress.
There is evidence that there will be a mass movement to hold candidates for Congress accountable to the People by making them declare whether they will support a constitutional amendment to ban corporate campaign expenditures and limit individual donations to influence the outcome of elections. There is a parallel movement to accomplish the same by legislative changes to address corruption of government by monied interests, though many doubt that such an effort can succeed. Even if it does succeed in the short run, there is always the risk that a future Congress can be corrupted by the influence of the rich and powerful, while a constitutional amendment will ensure that future Congresses will not be able to hand the US government back to corporate interests.
Those who argue that we cannot reform government by working with politicians are missing the point: If we make support for a constitutional amendment the litmus test for candidates for Congress, we can and will elect a Congress that will put the interests of the People over those of the corporate interests that currently control it. This is the first step to electing a Congress that will work for peace through cutting the strings of those who manipulate US policy to wage endless war for corporate Empire while subjugating a population that is becoming increasingly aware of the threat this poses to its own freedom.
If we keep in mind that 80% of both self-identified conservatives and liberals are opposed to Citizens United, citizens can unite to take back America for the People. The Pledge to Amend campaign is the way to join the Left and Right in the common cause of finally achieving democracy in America and the world. If we succeed the last, best hope for Mankind shall not perish from the Earth. Recent history has shown that democracy cannot be imposed at the point of a gun. If we come to understand that, there is yet hope that we can create it through the will of the People, using the democratic process that is at the heart of the freedoms for which so many have died.