I had Posted not long ago ("We Have Met the Enemy", Feb. 23rd) ago about the new Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, opining that the greatest threat to national security is going to be the American citizenry. I had gone on from there, recalling just how uncomfortable angry citizens have made Washington feel in times past – the Bonus Army, the labor unrest of the late 1800s and early 1900s – and how it was quite possible that the Beltway at this point wanted to have a few measures ready in case folks came to realize just how hugely things have been frakked up in the past forty or fifty years, leading directly to Our present unhappy circumstances.
Another thought came to me: that large numbers of Us will become Italians. Not dual-passport Italians (you need a grandparent born in the old country for that). I mean: Italian in how we think of 'government’ and ‘the government’.
For the Italians, especially the country-folk, but also including the city-folk, ‘government’ was just a different form of racket that was trying to shake you down. You kept as far away from it as you could, and you owed it nothing. The Russian peasant version of this is nicely summed up in the traditional ejaculation: “May God bless and keep the Tsar … far away from us”. Although the Italians aren't so generous and well-disposed.
Even such heavies as Stalin and Mao had to use troops to confiscate the grain and produce necessary to feed the ever-dangerous ‘urban proletariat’, pay the Party apparatchiks, hire more troops, and provide the State with something to trade on the international market. More to the point here, so did Mussolini – and for all his swagger, he could never be sure how far his writ would run, or how easily, out in the boondocks.
Italians, especially in the South, already had the Mafia and the Camorra to pay – and those gentlepersons then used some of the swag to pay off government officials and the police; the ‘mob’ up in the capital was going to have to come down and try to take what it demanded; there would be no legions of happy contadini gaily filling out their income tax forms and sending checks along, or truckloads of wheat, wine, cows, pigs, chickens, or peppers and eggplant. It wasn’t so hard to understand – even if not accept – what the Italian anarchists were on about, once you saw what they had to put up with.
Now here We are in the Year of Grace Two Thousand and Nine, and of the Independence of the United States the Two-Hundred-and-Thirty-Third, watching the America of fame and tradition (and fortune) suddenly crinkling and wobbling like a Zeppelin with a thousand leaks. And that hissing noise is Nature’s way of reminding Us that We have a date with the ground a lot earlier than We had planned. It’s not nice, as all American children once learned, to fool Mother Nature.
Only Stalin and Mao – not even Hitler or Mussolini – managed to maintain armies big enough to keep the maximum cash flowing in from their own citizens.
No cash, no racket – you don’t need to be Bugsy Siegel or Joe Kennedy to know that.
This modo Italiano of course would be a death-knell for America as a democracy and as a Republic. The Founders precisely wanted to put together a government that could be kept at least mostly honest in order to forestall the citizenry simply losing all confidence that the government worked ‘for them’, for the common weal. Once that happened, then the American Experiment would collapse into the muck and mire of the old European monarchies, distrusted and avoided and – when necessary – obstructed by their own people.
None of the Founders would have countenanced a ‘revolutionary’ politics that sought to co-opt the government in order to install the agenda of ‘revolutionary elites’ who were the only ones who ‘get it’ and wanted to impose their illuminations on the many lumps who ‘just didn’t get it’. None of them would have imagined that all the Branches would yield to the ‘demands’ of such noisy ‘elites’, let alone that the ‘free press’ would have succumbed to the emotional sensationalism and juvenile thought processes and mass manipulation that marks so much of mainstream media ‘reporting’ now.
That legislators would pass shoddy laws based on clearly shoddy reasoning and fake facts; that the Executive would claim the powers of a divine-right monarch for a ‘war’ that was so defined that it could last forever; that even the Supreme Court would turn out sophomoric Opinions and Decisions designed to play to this or that ‘faction’ … none of the Framers, except in their worst nightmares, would have imagined that the entire government apparatus they had so painstakingly constructed would become corrupted simultaneously. Nor that government officials, elected and appointed, would seek to make their fortunes from pandering to wealth – personal or corporate – rather than live in honorable modesty while discharging the duties they had sworn to perform, to perform their duties in the service of “that government of the people, by the people, for the people”.
But it has happened, And in the mathematics of the Gettysburg Address, then, that government may well indeed “perish from the earth” – at least in any form recognizable to the Framers who raised up the Constitution and the American ‘vision’ from the dusts and fogs of the world’s tortured history.
So that’s the challenge that faces Us “on Our watch”. Enough half-envious, half-embarrassed ‘praise’ for military officers on land or air or sea. What they face is not as important as what We as The People are facing.
And the struggle is indeed ‘here’ and not ‘abroad’. The threat is the parlous condition of the government – its integrity even more than its finances and its still-hidden mis-, mal-, and non-feasances of the past eight or twenty or forty years.
What then is to be done?