The Real War - On American
by Thom Hartmann
CommonDreams.org, April 11,
In the midst of news of foreign wars,
Americans are beginning to wake up to the real war being waged
here at home. It is, however, a confused awakening.
For example, Americans wonder why the
Bush administration seems so intent on crippling local, state,
and federal governments by starving them of funds and creating
huge federal debt that our children will have to repay.
Many think it's just to fund tax cuts
and subsidies for the rich, that the multimillionaire CEOs who've
taken over virtually all senior posts in the Bush administration
are just pigs at the trough, and this is a spectacular but ordinary
form of self-serving corruption. It all seems so plausible, and
there's even a grain of truth to it.
But juicy deals for Bush administration
insiders are just a by-product of the real and deeper war against
democracy. The neoconservatives are perfectly happy for us to
think they're just opportunists skirting the edges of legality
and morality, but this is far more dangerous than simple government
Indeed, the neo-conservatives claim to
be anti-government. As a leading spokesman for the neo-con agenda,
Grover Norquist, told National Public Radio's Mara Liasson in
a May 25, 2001 Morning Edition interview, "I don't want to
abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where
I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."
Without a larger view, the issues of domestic
spending, oil, neo-conservative power plays in both major parties,
the loss of liberties, anti-government rhetoric, and war in the
Middle East all seem like separate and unconnected events. They're
The "new conservatives" who've
seized the Republican Party and, through the Democratic Leadership
Council (DLC) are nipping at the heels of the Democratic Party,
are not our parents' conservatives. Historic conservatives like
Barry Goldwater, Harry Truman, and Dwight Eisenhower would be
appalled. Although their philosophical roots go back to Alexander
Hamilton, who openly argued during the Constitutional Convention
that royalty was the best form of government, the neocons have
always been kept to the fringe, nipping at the heels of democracy.
In past times those promoting what is
now called the neo-conservative agenda went by different names.
The Founders of America knew that for
6000 years "civilized" humans had always been ruled
by one of three groups: kings, theocrats, or feudal lords. Kings
held power by threat of violence and continual warfare; theocrats
and popes held power by the people's fear of a god or gods; and
feudal lords held power by wealth and the power that comes from
throwing average people into poverty.
The "new" idea of our Founders
in 1776 was to throw off all three of these historic tyrannies
and replace them with a fourth way - people being ruled by themselves.
A government that derived its legitimacy and continuing existence
solely from the approval of its citizens. Government of, by, and
for "We, The People." They called it a republican democracy.
What we are seeing now in the neoconservative
agenda is nothing less than an attempt to overthrow republican
democracy and replace it with a worldwide feudal state.
The last time this happened, the feudalists
took over a monarchy and then North America. In December 1600,
Queen Elizabeth I chartered the East India company, ultimately
leading to a corporate takeover of the Americas that the colonists
ended with the Boston Tea Party and, three years later, the American
Revolution. This corporate-state partnership went on to conquer
India, but eventually faded out as the British Empire faded, and
the British government, along with most of Western Europe, embraced
Jeffersonian forms of democracy.
But it raised its head again in the 20th
Century, revived by Franco, Hitler, and Mussolini. The Italian
dictator even used the word "corporatism" to describe
it, and then later renamed it as "fascism" - a word
that was defined in American dictionaries such as The American
Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company) in 1983 as "fas-cism
(fash'iz'em) n. A system of government that exercises a dictatorship
of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and
business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Since the "Reagan Revolution,"
two centuries after we rose up and rebelled against King George
III's support of corporate feudalism in Boston Harbor, this ancient
enemy of democracy is again trying to seize America. Reagan ignored
the Sherman Act and other restraints on corporations, and sold
at fire-sale prices the airwaves once held in common by We, The
People. The result was predictable: a merger and acquisitions
frenzy, and the takeover of American media by a handful of mega-corporations.
Bill Clinton then helped export corporatism to the industrialized
world when he pushed GATT/WTO through Congress.
Thus, the war on Iraq was just one front
in the larger feudal war against democracy itself. (And a particularly
useful one - it gave the corporate feudal lords access to oil
wealth, and was so effective at distracting the populace from
Bush's outrageous domestic agenda that we can expect to see another
war, somewhere, in November of 2004.)
In 1936 - years before America turned
its attention to fighting fascism in Germany - Franklin D. Roosevelt
was concerned about the rise of a corporate feudalism here in
the United States. In a speech in Philadelphia on June 27th, he
said: "Out of this modern civilization economic royalists
carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration
of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations,
banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture,
of labor and capital - all undreamed of by the Fathers - the whole
structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service."
Roosevelt suggested that human nature
may play a part in it all, but that didn't make it tolerable.
"It was natural and perhaps human," he said, "that
the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting
for power, reached out for control over government itself."
It was a control the Democratic Party
of 1936 found intolerable. "As a result," Roosevelt
said, "the average man once more confronts the problem that
faced the Minute Man."
Republicans of the day lashed out in the
press and on radio, charging that Roosevelt was anti-American,
even communist. Without a moment's hesitation, he threw it back
in their faces.
"These economic royalists complain
that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America," Roosevelt
thundered in that 1936 speech. "What they really complain
of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to
American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power.
In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution.
In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution
Those of us who still believe in republican
democracy would have "We, The People" make the decisions
through representatives we've elected without the feudal influence
of corporate money. We realize that "big government"
is, indeed, a menace when it's no longer responsive to its own
people, as happened in Germany and Russia in the last century
- and is happening today in America under the neoconservatives.
But we also remember the vision of a free
and democratic America - a sacred archetype so powerful that protestors
in Tiananmen Square marched to their deaths carrying a 36-foot-tall
paper mache replica of the Statue Of Liberty while quoting the
words of Thomas Jefferson.
Facing the power of The East India Company's
corporate feudalism in 1773, the Founders of our nation, unable
to get their voices heard in the halls of the British government
or even in many of the newspapers of the day, turned to two nonviolent
and very effective methods to spread the new meme of democracy.
The first was pamphleteering - and the
internet is today's pamphlet. Millions are using email and pointing
to websites to awaken people and promote democratic change.
The second was creating "committees
of correspondence," also used extensively by the Women's
Suffrage movement. These were groups organized to write letters
to the editors of newspapers.
People across American have already begun
letter writing, faxing, and email campaigns, and you can see the
results on the editorial pages of our newspapers and in the reactions
of some of our politicians. Other correspondents are blogging
or calling in to talk shows, modern variations on this theme.
A correspondent in York, New York, who
is pamphleteering in email and encouraging committees of correspondence
to write letters to newspaper editors against the new feudalism's
wars on America and overseas, shared the following quote from
Emerson: "One of the illusions [of life] is that the present
hour is not the critical, decisive hour."
Yet this is the critical and decisive
hour, and we are not without voices or tools.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com)
is an author and talk show host. <http://www.thomhartmann.com>www.thomhartmann.com
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