In “The Sorry State of Things,” posted on November thirtieth, I discussed the situation in America as it stands right now and a little bit about how we got here. Before offering a suggested course of action, maybe I should give this situation a name and a description that suits it better than, “this shit-storm.”
There was a dangerous coalition formed after the presidential election in 2008. It consisted of the Republicans, the Koch brothers et al, those Tea Party assholes, every closet racist for whom Obama’s election was the last straw, the Sovereign Citizen/militia crowd, everybody who preferred the Bible to science, “Reagan Democrats,” everybody who longed for the "white America," or wished that homosexuals had never been allowed out of the closet, the Lost Cause Confederate flag wavers, a lot of people who totally forgot that their own great-grandparents had been immigrants, and probably everybody who owned a bass boat. They were joined in a holy crusade to terminate on discovery all evidence of Obama’s existence and make sure that he was a one-term president. It didn’t quite work out the way that they planned.
President Obama turned out to be smarter than the average Kenyan witch-doctor, and smarter than that whole coalition, too. There were positive lessons to be drawn from this, but unfortunately only Obama’s fans got the message. The coalition was driven to insanity by eight years of President Obama calmly ignoring them, getting elected for a second term, and generally doing a good job of holding the office. It was all very dignified and presidential, you’d have to say, unless you were in the coalition. If you were one of them, you declared war.
2008 was the beginning of our second Civil War. Actually, two civil wars that fit together like Russian nesting dolls.
Red v. Blue
The respective line-ups for this war are clearly illustrated on the blue and red maps of the 2016 election. There are marked similarities to the opposing line-ups that faced each other in the first Civil War (1861 et seq.), not only in the identities of the states involved, but also in the nature of their stated positions.
The Blue States, like the Union (Federal) team in the Civil War, are more populous and more industrialized. They have more highly developed economies. They are, like the Union side, reality based, having goals and beliefs that mesh nicely with the progress of American democracy and world civilization.
The Red States, like the Confederacy once did, are struggling to preserve a mythical history that is already past its sell-by date. Both our modern Red States and the eleven old Confederate States represent beliefs that are deeply racist and xenophobic, with Biblical overtones. This Biblical aspect, as usual, takes people out of the realm of reason and into the swamp of fantasy.
Regarding religion and the Bible, my attitude should be clear even to casual readers. I own a Bible, and I have read it (not every word, but I have at least scanned every page, and I have read a great deal of it). I believe that it is an interesting document with great historical significance, especially if one is engaged in a close study of Iron Age barbarism. Religion, in general, I believe to be on a par with a belief in ghosts. Neither belief flatters a person who aspires to be respected.
Red v. Blue, Continued
Today, the United States is divided into two hostile camps: one that is made up of states that are well organized and civilized (California, Minnesota, New York, etc.); and another, which is comprised of states that are charismatic and primitive (Kansas, Alabama, etc.). Please forgive me if I speak frankly, for I have grown tired of mincing words. This has all gotten deadly serious.
All of this Red/Blue stuff had been percolating for a couple of decades through the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush period. It became an all-out Civil War when Obama was elected. During the Obama years the level of mutual hatred and violence rose year by year. Make believe battles over relatively trivial societal changes were elevated to the level of existential threats by conservative politicians and right-wing media figures who were pushing their own agenda. Abortion, women’s reproductive rights in general, homosexual rights, immigration, and other matters, became focal points for an assault on the Constitution itself.
During the run-up to the election of 2016 the entire thing reached a fever pitch, and the battle lines were cut in stone. The election itself was nothing less than a coup d’etat, which we can now see clearly in retrospect. The winners have never acted like they won an election, rather they act like they have taken over the government. They have never settled for the measure of control offered to them by the Constitution, rather they have assumed a degree of power more akin to a dictatorship. All of them, from Trump down to the least significant member of the House of Representatives, have acted as though they have assumed all of the powers associated with an emperor’s crown.
These are the dimensions of the war that are visible on the battle field. Electoral politics are still involved, so there must be a framework on which to hang that narrative. There is, however, another way to look at the two sides of this new Civil War. One that is more obscure, but probably closer to the truth of the matter.
The Rich v. Everybody and Everything Else
Or should I say, “the Rich, and their hired stooges in government v. The Rest of Us.” One usually hears it described as, “the rich and the large corporations,” but just calling them “the Rich” is more accurate. I am not one to support the idea of corporate personhood, in fact I do not think that the idea is worth any credence at all, much less any legal backing. In every relevant way, corporations ARE the rich. Corporations are their stockholders, who are the Rich. So let’s just go with “The Rich” here.
The Rich have declared war on the rest of us, all of us. They seek to destroy every right that we have under the Constitution, and undo all of the little things that government has done for us to level the playing field and make our lives easier. (The government, please note, did not do those things altruistically, but rather to enable us to keep working and paying taxes and buying things, which makes a lot of sense.) The Rich want all of the little things that we have won for ourselves. They want our private homes (they seek to “increase their ownership share of America’s housing stock”); they want to own our personal automobiles (the new business model is to sell us “subscriptions” to automobiles, I shit you not); they want to claim the little bit of savings that we have in the bank (through higher prices for the necessities of life, like food and lodging). They have seen fit to declare war on us in order to steal it all. They wish to leave us with what I recently called, “almost nothing, but grateful that we have not been reduced to having nothing at all.”
There is ample proof of their intention to wage war in their daily actions over the last year. If you require final, smoking-gun proof that they have declared war, look no further than the recent tax bill that their stooges in congress passed with repulsive jocularity. You know, the one that takes money away from you and me and gives most of it to about 330,000 of the richest Americans, none of whom need a cent of it, and none of whom will use it to help anyone, except maybe a famous museum or two. (That’s .001% of the population.)
Who are these “stooges?” The Rich could not do this on their own, so they hired our so-called “elected officials” to do it for them. It has worked, and our officials have sold themselves remarkably cheaply. In return for everything, the Rich have paid out what amounts to about one percent of their wealth to politicians and officials. ($10 million out of every billion dollars.) It’s the greatest bargain in history. How did people that were stupid enough to sell out so cheap ever get elected? Even by an electorate like ours? This is the most amazing aspect of this whole thing for me.
It’s comical; it’s like Dr. Evil gloating over “one million” dollars. Those smirking idiots who are the current party bosses in the House and the Senate will retire someday with what they will stupidly believe is a lot of money. Why, a few of them may end up with tens of millions of dollars! At that, most of them will still have to beg their genuinely rich masters for the things that they themselves will still not be able to afford, like rides on luxurious private jets and Mediterranean vacations on huge yachts off the coast of France. Private islands will be out of the question, being reserved for the Rich alone. Oh, how the Walmart heirs and the Koch brothers must laugh at small-time political hacks.
So, the Rich have, in effect, declared war on:
1. The Federal Government of the United States;
2. The United States Constitution;
3. All of the States that did not vote for them (the Blue States);
4. The Federal Judiciary;
5. The National Intelligence Community;
6. The FBI; and
7. All American citizens with a net worth of less than about five million dollars and annual incomes of less than half a million or so, maybe a million. Note that this group includes virtually all Americans, including almost all lawyers, doctors, dentists, and management personnel; almost all professionals like accountants, nurses, and academics; all contractors from general to plumbing; and almost all sole owners of businesses. And all "working people."
Make no mistake that this is a real war, complete with all of the violence that is usually associated with war. We are beset with militarized, trigger-happy police (over one thousand Americans have been killed by our own police this year alone); the availability of firearms and the constant drumbeat against minorities and immigrants leads to a huge number of gun-related deaths every year; the number of mass shootings every year, carried out by Americans against Americans, should convince us that a lot of people are right on the edge and ready to resort to violence; our legislators have criminalized everything and our District Attorneys charge everyone with everything, which has given us an amazing level of mass-incarceration (which is now being monetized by those same legislators). We live in a war zone.
Remember to factor in the loss of important elements of the social safety net that we all rely on. You may not benefit personally from some of the more obscure programs that are being cut, but you will definitely feel the pain of higher costs for health insurance, cuts or elimination to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. If you wish to educate yourself, or provide a university education for your children, you will suffer more to try to pay for it. More people will get sick and die, people of all ages. The “underinsured,” and their unfortunate children. God help the young parents whose child is born with Cystic Fibrosis, or any number of other not-so-uncommon colossally expensive ailments. In this war, you are on your own.
You may take my word for it, the prospect of making it through another year alive has become daunting and terrifying to people who are already of “retirement age.” What a quaint concept! Retirement! Most of us are already on the “work until you die” retirement plan. This is before the now inevitable cuts to programs that we rely on, like Social Security and Medicare. Perhaps you are still young, dear reader, and perhaps you take care of yourself and get your exercise, and perhaps you think that you will magically avoid the worst effects of the aging process. If you believe this, you are hilariously wrong. As careful as it is possible to be, by the time that you are in your sixties your biological clock will have worn down to half-speed or less. You will no longer be able to spring forth bright eyed and bushy tailed at six o’clock every morning and charge full at it until seven p.m. like you used to. If you tried to do that, five days a week, every week, like you used to do, you would likely die within six weeks or so.
We oldsters are going to be notable casualties of this war. More of us are leaving the United States because we can no longer afford to live there. This phenomenon is already observable. There are growing ex-pat retirement communities in northern Mexico, where they can easily nip back across the border to avail themselves of medical services that are subsidized by Medicare. Many retired Americans with some financial wherewithal have relocated to Costa Rica. I live in Thailand myself, and I have been noticing more gray-haired eminences sitting in the coffee shops of my local mall, reading the local English language newspaper. Many of us will die at our own hands because we have run out of money and options after becoming too old to work.
We are the victims of a war that our side has not even begun to fight. All Americans are in this situation because we had no elected officials who were willing to fight for us. There are only two political parties in America, the Blue Stooges and the Red Stooges. They all work for the Rich.
Is there going to be a fight? Or perhaps we will begin to realize that the war is over, and we have been thoroughly beaten. Time will tell, I suppose, but I am not optimistic. If there is to be a war in response to this coup, there would have to be two sides willing to fight. If you believe that there are two groups in American politics, Democrats and Republicans maybe, or maybe you prefer Conservatives and Liberals, they would best be described as one group who actively fought for the Rich, and one group who merely stepped aside and allowed the Rich to take everything. (That would be overly kind to the side that claimed to be on the side of the working man and the future.) In any case, everyone of any importance on both sides was in the employ of the Rich.
In Part III I will offer some ideas about how this struggle for the soul of America could become a fair fight. It will all seem fantastic and impossible, and that is, in itself, very sad.
I am writing all of this all down in an attempt to process the terrible fate that has befallen the American Dream. There is the greatest likelihood that I am just getting it all out of my system so that I can proceed to give up completely. If anyone has had the patience to read up to this point, I am deeply grateful.
It occurs to me that this is the kind of writing that could one day be used in court as evidence that I was planning some kind of action against one or more of the complained about groups. I am not. I am no anti-tyranny pamphleteer, I am not like the Sons of Liberty, who actually put their lives on the line to give us our Constitution in the first place. I have my hands full trying to keep myself and my little family out of the poorhouse. I have never been a crusader or a protestor, and I am not expecting to change my personal style at this late date. This writing is simply my small effort on behalf of common sense and human decency.
I am just a cranky old man who wishes that things were better for the many American working men and women who still have a lot of life in front of them. Americans who are in the prime of life and not above the good-will cut off, which like I say is about five million dollars. I salute you and I wish you luck. You would have liked the America that my first wife and I raised our family in. We had no computers, nor smart phones, and there was no Internet. We had a lot more financial, personal, and medical security, though, and we had a lot less to worry about. We had a lot more freedom than people have now, for that matter. That world is gone. Please don’t blame its destruction on me. It was stolen out from under you by the Rich, and that prick, Reagan. We are all suffering its loss together.