Wednesday, November 08, 2006

INVISIBLE PREDATOR

The previous post talked about the degrading of the Citizen-capabilities that has also degraded our capacity to be The People, able to perform that critical and fundamental role foreseen at the Founding. It talked about how this degrading cannot be seen simply as the product of the infamous Bush administration players. Rather it must be understood in its true proportions: as a process that has been going on for almost forty years, passing through clear red-blinking milestones whose significance was ignored. And the results of which were merely taken – whole hog – by the Bush people and put to a different use after 9-11.

And so, ‘blaming the Bush administration’ – while the whole bunch deserve it richly, while it satisfies us tremendously – does not solve the fundamental problem we now face: we are degraded and de-ranged as a People, as The People. And it is this degradation and this de-rangement that pose the most fundamental threat to the survival of the Republic. As I am writing this Post the Democrats have re-taken the House and may yet have re-taken the Senate as well. We may all – as Chris Floyd says today – ‘breathe easier’. But we are by no means out of the woods and – again and again and again – it is not just a matter of joining the Democrats as they Blame Bush (who richly deserves it). Nor of the legislative undoing of some of the reprehensible ‘laws’ passed recently. Nor of the serious justicial sifting of all the rotten tricks this Gang has played over the better part of a decade now. Nor even of starting the awe-some process of undoing the consequences of the mess in Iraq and around the world; some of the consequences – we’re going to have to face it – have not even begun to display themselves and some of the consequences will be irreversible in their damage.

It won’t just be a matter of any or all of the foregoing. It won’t be just a matter of all that because the Democrats as a Party have been responsible for the degradations and de-rangements that Bush and his Gang simply picked up and aimed outward, into foreign policy and into the wider world. And the Democrats may not want to go so far as to look at their own role in the debacle; in fact, I bet you can bet on it: they won’t.

But they have to. More: we have to. We have to because what I’m driving at here is so fundamental to us as The People that if WE don’t fix ourselves then no Party (let alone post-election partying) is going to save us or the Republic which has been entrusted to us by previous generations in stewardship for future generations. And – yes – I realize that ‘stewardship’ is not only old hat but kinda ‘masculine’ (and it needn’t be), that our brave new Advocated world is one-dimensional and has no ‘past’ (full of dead white males anyway) and no responsibility to the ‘future’ because responsibility-to-the-future has been used for untold ages as a conceptual instrument for oppressing countless oppressed victims of the Rational, Sex-maddened Patriarchy by getting the aforementioned oppressed ones to postpone their own personal fulfillment (not to be characterized as ‘gratification’ which implies an immaturity which would only victimize the victims even more). And yes – I know that some folks have moved beyond this earlier mode of looking at things, but – alas – this is the mode of discourse underlying an awful lot of legislation that found its way onto the books in the past fifteen or so years. And the philosophy – even as painful and embarrassing as it might be to read now – is alive and well in those laws and will remain so until those laws are undone.

And until We, the People clear the whole fog out of our own minds, so we can get back to doing what is our indispensable job in the American scheme of government: to Ground the Branches, so that they can perform their carefully calibrated roles. We are the hull; the Branches are the machinery in the hull, but those pieces are tightly affixed to us, who must carry them and support them and – not to make Us sound too passive – anchor them and keep them from vibrating out of control and sinking the whole thing and all its souls. (And yes – I know it’s impolite to mention ‘souls’. How far we have come. How far, consequently, we have to go now.)

A specific example: the legislature of the Great State of Ohio, I read last night (in the current issue of “Reason” magazine), has passed a remarkable variant of the now-classic sex-offender registry legislation. Under the Ohio variant, a citizen can now be put on the Registry and subjected to all of those (eerily Central European) requirements simply on the word of a self-proclaimed victim, or the state’s attorney-general, or a county prosecutor. You don’t even have to be charged with a sex-crime, let alone tried. And if you want to appeal, you can – after waiting six years.

Now your kid in college may point out that this is straight out of Kafka (and if s/he is actually able to make that observation, you should celebrate the fact as vigorously as you might the outcome of yesterday’s elections). But we can’t allow ourselves to assume that the state legislators of Ohio read Kafka, however faithful they are proving to be to his greatest fears.

Again, my concern here is not to go into the specifics of this or any particular piece of sex-offender legislation. Rather, it is to demonstrate how the legislation itself is symptomatic of something even worse: the recently-developed lawlessness within the American sense of society and in The People itself, within us as a society and as The People.

A respect for the power of Law is utterly fundamental and wholly indispensable to the American scheme of government and of civilization. I’m not talking here of the ‘respect for the law’ that was the bedrock of townsfolk in every Western ever made. I am not talking about the totemistic urgency with which every frontier village set up a sheriff and a judge, a jail and a courtroom (even if it was only a barroom with a flag). I am not even talking about the ‘respect for law’ on the basis of which an increasingly engorged government began declaring its assorted ‘wars’. Of which the one on drugs has been one of the more enduring, deploying police as if they were combat troops operating against enemy forces in hostile terrain – this ‘war’ hasn’t even begun to excrete its worst, but hardly unforeseeable, consequences.

I am talking about something far closer to the Founders and their vision, and something that constituted the essence of that vision: the power of Law is one of the greatest restraints upon the power of government. And against such a proven and unpredictable a predator, citizens must forever discipline themselves to keep a constant guard. (Yes, ‘disciplining oneself’ is also a patriarchally oppressive tool and should not be used in correct company or speech. All I can say is: 9-11 changed everything.)

The purpose of constituting a Rule of Law, which by its very nature includes the integrity of its Due Process, was to prevent the police power of the government, the capacity for violence granted as a monopoly to the government in the social compact, from slipping its restraints and like a loose but fully charged fire-hose, whipping wildly back and forth at great speed and with great force, whacking anything or anybody it can reach. The Rule of Law isn’t first and foremost a service benevolently provided by an indulgent government. It is a requirement placed upon government, a harness, a leash – and through the Rule of Law the tremendous pent-up power of violence inherent in the monopoly granted to the government is kept within the control of The People and in the service of The People.

And by The People I do not mean a particular Identity within the community or the society. I mean The People, whole and entire. And here is precisely where the Democrats helped degrade The People. By dispensing with the Rule of Law in order to placate the self-declared Emergency of this or that Identity and Advocacy, the Democrats not only loosened the bonds which were restraining and harnessing the awe-fully engorged post-1945 National Security State, but the Democrats then went and got far too many individuals among The People used to the idea that to break the Rule of Law can be a Good thing, if it’s done in a Good Cause.

And in Ohio we now see how the degrading of The People is given specific shape in the de-rangement of its legislators. I don’t use ‘de-rangement’ as a classy word to make a juvenile crack, i.e. that the Ohio solons are ‘crazy, ha ha’. I am using the term in mechanical and engineering sense: the fine-tuned apparatus that is The People’s appreciation for the Rule of Law has been knocked off kilter and cannot function properly. It’s as bad as if a nuclear missile in flight suddenly suffered a deranged gyroscope: there’s no telling where it will go, or where it will come down. Or as if a large Army vehicle in a civic parade suddenly lost its steering and speed control on Main Street, lined with folks watching the parade. The quintessentially Western sense of the role of Law in the preservation of Democracy by restraining the government (as well as individual citizens) has been forgotten. The citizenry no longer feel respect for this role of the Rule of Law. Indeed, in the past two decades – and not from ‘the hippies’ – breaking down the Rule of Law has come to be seen as a heroic act of public service; it has actively been presented as such by Advocacies whose particular spin was amplified by a complacent media.

Worse, I think we are now seeing the domestic degradation feeding off the foreign-policy degradation that it originally enabled: if this Ohio law is less than three years old, then I bet the Ohio pols simply assured themselves that they weren’t doing anything more than ‘our Commander-in-Chief’ was doing; what he was doing against the Islamic terrorists the Great State of Ohio was doing against the sex-terrorists; ain’t but a thang. So now the fires that were started are feeding off each other. And if The People can look upon it and call it Good, then as a Republic, as the American Republic, our doom is near.

Now when we are talking, as we will be in the coming months and years, about the lawlessness of the Bush era, and its utter disregard for treaties as well as for Constitutional protections and for any Rule of Law, we have to do this: in each recitation we have to take increased devotion to that Rule of Law that we have allowed ourselves to forget. Each sin of the Bush administration and of the Republican ascendancy (and their name is Legion) will be an indictment of the Democrats as well, because on their watch, for decades, the Rule of Law was gleefully and industriously deconstructed in the service of political advancement, fig-leafed as a Good Cause.

It has to acknowledged that it is our abandonment of the Rule of Law as a People, as The People, which has lubricated the lawlessness of the Bush era. And it may even provide another (partial) explanation of the seeming conscienceless ease with which so many apparatchiks in this Administration could propose, and so many Members of Congress erect, so pervasive and sustained an assault on law and Law: they figured that The People didn’t care or even that The People thought it was a Good Thing.

That so many of Us may indeed have thought that it was a Good Thing, that so many of Us may still do so, is the most profound and challenging emergency that we face. Let us not be distracted from it. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves …. You know the rest. The buck has stopped where it must always stop: not with the President, but with his employer, The People. Us.

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