What better day than the fourth of July to dive deeply into one of the on-going discussions spread throughout this collection of editorials? After all: ‘Independence Day,’ an honorable holiday celebrating the idea of liberty, justice and freedom for all. For all the very obvious and logical condemnations we could make of the founding fathers–of Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison–one does not deny that deep inside they were all honorable men. As for the three who owned slaves, at the very least the prospect seemed to trouble them after embracing their declaration and constitution, so let us do away with the innumerable flaws and focus on comparing the initial idea of America with what it has turned into and how, like any bible, people take sections out of context and use it to justify their ends.
I do not intend my focus here to be the Trump Administration, because he is only the result of the virus that has been brewing, on and off, since the foundation. I mean, America used to be the highest ideal a nation could aspire to. “The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” Doesn’t that sound lovely, the spark of a song to represent an offer to the world? Nations aspired to be America or, if that was implausible, to at least live here and become a part of the community, and raise their children to be Americans. And there was trouble with this from the start.
Of course most of the immigrants in those days were taken as slaves, members of enemy tribes sold away after an apocalyptic battle by some fat, laughing, African king. The same goes for the Asian slaves. The same goes for the white ones. And then there are the people Spain conquered all those years before, the Natives, the decreasing tribes forced to join with their mortal tribal enemies in order to fight off the waves of conquistadors destroying their natural paradise. But they lost. They were enslaved or murdered. America was born in blood, and I suspect she will finally die that way.
Anyway, the American Revolution inspired, just a few years later, the French Revolution, an event that had far more reaching consequences to the idea of Democracy. Back in America the people were busy developing their new land, and implementing the ideals that were fought for and developed in the Constitution. There was still a pressure campaign to get the exhausted George Washington to take the first leadership post of the nation, to be our first emperor–or President, because language is important and we want to get away from the idea of a monarch.
But the French Revolution proved to be far more barbaric and definitely more sinister in its goals. This event spread all throughout Europe, which, we must admit, was still the dominant territory throughout the world. America was a coming nation that would not see trouble from the outside until 1812. But France . . . France was a superpower in those days, along with Great Britain, Russia and on a smaller scale, any of the other great nations throughout the continent. And in France the revolution was a far more vengeful attack.
Kings and Queens were hanged to the jubilation of violent crowds. Riots broke out between the partisans of the new age and brutality reigned through the streets. There is a good reason why a few years later this era became known as “The Reign of Terror.” Charles Dickens captured the inconsistencies of the fight for freedom in not just the title of his novel A Tale of Two Cities, but with its uncertainty over whether it was “The best of times,” or “The worst of times.”
Revolutions can give the idea that all of society has crumbled and that the people are free to do whatever they want, kind of like a long ago version of The Purge (an admittedly silly reference, but I think it still applies). People did shoot and kill those they did not like or had disagreements with (as today). And internal wars did break out over firmly held personal beliefs, from religion to slavery. And yet America became a model for most the rest of the world.
As worldwide monarchies continued to crumble the numerous revolutions of 1848 spread throughout the world–“Down with the King! Down with the King!” Of course, cut to today, this resembles the “Arab Spring” where dictators were deposed and some of them were tortured (I am thinking Qaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak who, while certainly a dictator, found himself in a cage in a courtroom, extremely ill, being endlessly berated by a gang of people and victims of his reign who had become radicalized with whatever variety of freedom they believed in; Qaddafi was dragged through the streets and beaten to death. It is a wonder that he was not also tarred and feathered. And Hussein, a barbaric thug who randomly murdered his citizenry, was found hiding in a tiny underground bunker and then publicly executed with the help of the internet. But Saddam Hussein almost seems preferable to what has become of Iraq today) And torture does not make a better society. If you torture your enemies and they eventually die from this, all is vengence. It is inconsistent with Democracy, with innocent until proven guilty, with the Ten Commandments of the Bill of Rights itself.
Now of course the argument is made, as it so frequently is today as well, that the people we are discussing are not American citizens and therefore do not deserve to share our freedom. But it is with this very concept that the idea of America changed. I believe it was with Andrew Jackson, who was more about making the nation larger than with keeping America free.
The idea of America was, of course, an unrealistic optimism, imaging a world where everyone was at peace and we all lived under the idea of freedom. Yes, the early Americans were evangelists for this new way of life and hoped to spread it through their missionary work to all other nations and supply each of them with the same Bill of Rights. And it is this original intention that we have fallen so far away from. To America, everyone was meant to be free. We would take anyone in who was looking for a better way of life, and until their own nations yearned to be free, everyone was welcome to dip their feet into the great melting pot and transform the world into a singular nation.
But then things started to unravel. A Civil War fractured the society so deeply that it created a fault line that ever since has frequently causeed earthquakes. The Civil War split America, broke the country’s spirit and left the whole world shattered and trapped in gloom. Richer nations looked for a way to exploit America’s divisions and others shrugged off the Great Experiment of Democracy as something that could not hold itself together. After all, when you allow people to believe whatever they want, how can you keep the nation free from war?
And this assumption continued–the battle for Texas, the fight against the Mexican revolution, the new idea that America was First and America was the greatest nation ever flooding into the populace and giving rise to an even deeper hatred for the rest of the world. Immigrants were no longer seen as refugees from war scarred lands, but as interlopers who were seeking to take our jobs or even change our nation into something resembling the way of life each of these people were escaping. It was foreign religions and foods and children invading the land, and it was an invasion, and that was like an act of war and the fault line that had been opened began to rumble and continues to rumble still.
By the time The Great War broke out throughout Europe wars, were no longer about territory, but about ideology. It was the thought of imposing one way of life upon another, just like in the days before the American Revolution. Leaders and their people stopped listening to one another and they in fact imposed their own beliefs upon the national policy and wars of hatred and genocide started breaking out. And World War One exemplified this, leading to the Russian Revolution, leading to the rise of Adolf Hitler and various other populist extremist movements. The whole world had now become fractured, the influence of America spreading its divisions into the simmering rifts every nation shared. And it made it okay. If America could go to war with itself, that one shining beacon of hope, then the whole world was false and everything they had been told had been a lie. (Yes, this is a section from an ongoing series I have been writing about how lies have impacted the larger world throughout history).
World War Two was inspired, ultimately, by the Russian Revolution, by this new way of life that challenged Democracy and called it an absolute failure. It was about the state running everything for the people. This ideology expressed a false concern for their citizens and wished to turn the whole world into a contributing entity, everything they did as a benefit to the state, having very little time to wallow in the emptiness and misery of their home lives. All people were the same, there was no diversity to challenge belief systems, no freedom at all. This is what the Nazis took from it, and genocide, like Lenin’s genocide of all non-believers, like Stalin’s purge of those not faithful enough, an Inquisition gone modern, exploded everywhere, having once been a regional evil.
World War Two, in many ways, justified bigotry and hatred. Even as we fought against it, the point had been made that not everyone was so enthusiastically patriotic. After the war something called ‘The Cold War’ broke out. It began in 1947, years after FDR was gone and Stalin had no friends left in America. Truman, at the time considered a shit awful president, the only man in history to order the mass destruction of another nation and actually succeed (ancient Rome just expanded to nearby territories against nomadic civilizations that sometimes gave themselves a name). And he did this twice, terrifying the world, creating a new genre of literature and film about mutations, monsters, alien invaders and the coming apocalypse all those preachers had been talking about since the dawn of organized religion. Death was now sometimes passed off as a form of entertainment.
Of course there was a backlash to this, the 1st Amendment of the Constitution finally taking center stage. Is there freedom to express all viewpoints, and if not, is there really such a thing as freedom? Of course this is an unanswerable question when combined with quixotically held personal beliefs. And so the Cold War became another Civil War–ideology versus ideology and those in the middle becoming fodder for both polar extremes.
This continued throughout the 1950s–an imposed paranoia spreading about both the danger of Communism, and the totalitarian mission of the United States of America. Both theories spread wildly throughout the world and this caused a deeper and darker crackdown on both sides. There was a suppression of viewpoints, we got increasingly argumentative, cutting another person off for having a different point of view. We started mocking one another, tearing at one another, even killing one another as if the days of the Old Wild West had never been swallowed by Nationalism and Partisanship and we were still a group of outlaws locking the rest of the world out and quivering in our domains of terror, eyes peering out of windows , leaving a terrified family behind.
The 1960s were the same until Kennedy was assassinated. The border conflict America was involved with in Vietnam since 1954 escalated once Johnson stepped into office. Meanwhile the civil rights movement had exploded and liberal activists were taking charge under their mostly liberal president and demanding freedom that they had never felt before. The very idea of freedom had changed. The soul of America was given a challenge. And instead of embracing a newfound freedom, that internal earthquake once more exploded into mini-revolutions. There was anti-war and pro-feminism and gay rights and right-wing counter-attacks to somehow restore liberty to the idea we had gone so far away from. But these protesters, those on the right, were fighting against time, against history, about an unwillingness to accept social change and therefore more a group of monarchists instead of the freedom fighters they claimed to be.
A cyclical revolution started because of the angry pro and con defenses of the Vietnam war. When Johnson essentially resigned by refusing to run for re-election, the nation fell into turmoil. The protest movements overflowed the political conventions and in 1968–the election year; the year that saw both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy killed–the general society found itself moving back to the right, terrified of the rapid growth of angry movements.
Then, of course, the corruption of the Nixon Administration came out and rage consumed the world once again throughout the hopelessly disillusioned 1970s, when the results of the movements splintered the next generation into drugs and crime and cult movements and radicalism of every sort. Jimmy Carter was elected–yes! An outsider! A religious liberal! A man who tells it like it is, even if he highlights our national ‘malaise.’
But Carter ultimately, for all his good intentions, was not prepared for the job. The economy started to crumble and the generation in power now, the most selfish generation yet, grew increasingly angry, started to abandon their liberal viewpoints in the name of self-interest and the Conservative Revolution led by Ronald Reagan kicked off. The rest of the world saw creeping Islamic revolutions claiming the hot spots where all the oil we needed was produced. There arose yet another holy war, back to the crusades, back to the inquisition.
Reagan was ultimately a decent man, but the changes he imposed on the nation and its people were quite radical. There was a return to earlier times achieved, the anger and frustration of the children of the hippie generation turned into an outright rejection of their former values. College liberals graduated into conservative family men and women. They tried to protect their children from harm and, in effect, to raise them as spoiled brats, with their terrified ideas of freedom. There was more for these children, too many distractions, from video games to cable television to home computers. The world was evolving way faster than people were capable of.
Which of course led us to another tiny revolution. Bill Clinton–a true moderate and thus someone wishy-washy enough to effect change in both directions–a handsome, charming guy who had the instincts of a sexual predator arrived in the white house at perhaps the most opportune time in the nation’s history. The technology industry had taken over, making world economy an easier thing, making America richer than ever before and allowing parents to spoil there children with more and more . . . stuff. The selfishness of these parents, which had them spending less and less time with their families, their ideas on the work they were doing becoming essential, the parents decided to apologize to their children with things like those new cellphones and better and better computers where they can adsorb themselves in this new internet thing.
Then another shift to the right, what with the scandals of Bill Clinton and a genuine, growing hatred of his wife, the idea of a return to the days of Reagan inspired the nation to elect the son of a former president. George W Bush, unlike Bill Clinton, arrived at the worst possible time. Within the first year of his reign, the nation–no, the whole world–was attacked by Islamic militants. One of the greatest (and most ostentatious) symbols of America’s power was smashed down into rubble that killed thousands of people in our busiest city. But this was the World Trade Center, an accommodation to the business of the world. This was an international target. This was a declaration of war.
Now as a result of this we grew increasingly frightened. People campaigned for closing the borders. They shrieked at one another even within their own families for not seeing the threat of whichever version of truth that person was promoting. And so during the Clinton years we went to war with each other, conservative and liberal taking on different meanings to the nation, each one to each side filled with negative connotations, leading to the victory of a far-right wing congress to check the whims of the president, who was now openly hated.
The left responded to this by hating the right, transforming the entire Republican party–unjustly, in many instances–into a conspiratorial movement to take away our civil liberties. George Bush was suddenly blamed for 9/11, wild tales of it being an inside job, a clever hoax pulled off by a man whom the left believed to be the stupidest president this nation has ever had. All kinds of wild conspiracies were apparently afoot and the left got deeper and deeper into the slime of accusation and general paranoid rage.
The right responded by trying to one-up the left, building increasingly dangerous conspiracy theories that ultimately led the election of our nation’s first black president.
People were appalled–Bush lied to start a war for personal reasons, a never-ending war that still is fought today. And that cyclical need for a change led to Barrack Obama, another charming, handsome man who knew how to publicly lecture. The left embraced this stern moderate as a liberal icon immediately. They defended everything he did because they were so proud of themselves for fighting racial prejudice.
But of course racism is never far from the surface for some people and the election of Obama led to a great deal of open warfare, often on crude, hateful grounds. Was Obama actually an American or is he some foreign agent, a Manchurian candidate set on destroying our nation? Was he a communist? An Islamic fundamentalist? Something isn’t right. He doesn’t look right and there really is something wrong and–it’s not because he’s black, I’m not a racist but, could a black man really govern a nation where half the people hate him on pure instinct?
The new, right-wing conspiracy theories took over, which alongside the questions already mentioned led to the foundation of a radical right-wing movement that called themselves the ‘Tea Party,’ although that is certainly a misnomer because their ideologies and general meaning had absolutely nothing to do with costumed patriots dumping the Eastern China Tea Company’s wares into the sea. All they wanted was the freedom to not pay taxes, to be as angry as they wanted to be with the direction our country had taken under the Illuminati controlled Clinton and Bush, Jr., and the un-American infiltrator then in the white house.
And Obama didn’t really help his cause because, for all the ground-breaking reality of his presidency, he winds up firmly in the middle when evaluating the performances of past presidents. Health care was his greatest triumph, which was dismantled after Donald Trump’s first year in office. A cyclical revolution had once more begun, deepening the crack in the firmament that Obama had already caused and rumbling into the earthquake that the Tea Party and their most important candidate so desperately wanted.
Donald Trump. He will certainly be remembered as time goes by. The world is split into exclusively radical supporters and those radically opposed. There is hardly any middle ground. And it is easy to argue both pro and con views to the value of Trump’s ideas and ideology (you can find that elsewhere because this is by far my longest post), and so it is very simple to radicalize the term ‘revolution.’ It is what America was founded under, under this threat of defeat from outside forces and the panicked nature of what if what if what if and the justifications of what someone on the opposite extreme did to ‘cover-up’ the incompetence and evil the target is guilty of.
We are more divided now than any time since the Civil War. People are talking and taking seriously the idea of dividing California into three separate states because people of different political viewpoints can no longer stand each other. There is a constant threat of violence, of civil war, of the fringes of society, the outcasts, looming into the spotlight and taking over. And we are scared, we are all scared, and we huddle with our guns, shivering, waiting to shoot someone, anyone, who we believe might be a threat to our flawed ideas of liberty.
Happy birthday, America.