"The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of Patriots and Tyrants!" - Thomas Jefferson
At the time that Thomas Jefferson made this statement, the nation of France was in the midst of a political upheaval that would change the face of Europe. King Louis XVI, and his wife Marie Antoinette, had been deposed, monarchy had been abolished, they had been executed, and the first French Republic had been established. He would later come to regret these words when the Republic fell into despotism and the violence became more than he was willing to stomach, but his sentiment remains true to this very day. He believed that it was the right of the ruled to to purify their nation when they found that their chosen leaders had become corrupt, and whose actions had become suspect. He had said as much less twenty years earlier when he put pen to paper to author the Declaration of Independence:
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
Further, his idea that the governed had the right to dictate the behavior of their leaders was not created out of thin air. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the French political philosopher that influenced not just Jefferson but also his many compatriots who were seeking justification for their separation from England. Paraphrased, Rousseau put it like this:
The political aspects of a society should be divided into two parts. First, there must be a sovereign consisting of the whole population, women included, that represents the general will and is the legislative power within the state. The second division is that of the government, being distinct from the sovereign. This division is necessary because the sovereign cannot deal with particular matters like applications of the law. Doing so would undermine its generality, and therefore damage its legitimacy. Thus, government must remain a separate institution from the sovereign body. When the government exceeds the boundaries set in place by the people, it is the mission of the people to abolish such government, and begin anew.
The political philosophy that is being espoused here, the concept that the people of a nation have a right to self-government, was reflected less than a century afterwards when the Declaration of Independence was signed, as Abraham Lincoln stood on amongst the carnage and destruction of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He said:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
These men believed that it was a natural right for people to stand up to tyranny and to defend their rights. Even more than that, they believed it to be a moral obligation of any truly patriotic citizen. It is in the spirit of these fine gentlemen that I offer my opinion on the following issues. Let the cards land where they may.....
On Women's Rights: To gain some perspective, let us get to the text that many women in the United States have historically bound themselves to, so that we can see the irony. In the story of Adam and Eve, the foundational story of the Bible. It was not Adam who was tempted to betray God's command not to eat the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was Eve. Further, it was not Adam who knowingly chose to eat the fruit; but rather, it was Eve who deceived Adam into betraying the will of God. Essentially, the Bible blames the fall of Man on a woman. Later, in the story of King Ahab of Israel, it was not King Ahab who chose to worship a foreign god of his own free will; but rather, it was Jezebel, the evil temptress, who pressured him into it. Again, a women is given the blame for a man's choice to take actions that were unacceptable to his moral law. The bible is also well known for justifying the oppression of women. It claims that a man's wife is his property, and that he can rape and beat her, if he so chooses. In war, it is a man's right do with the enemy's women whatever he chooses. He can kill them, rape them, or take them as his property as a wife or concubine. Worse, according to the bible, this is all perfectly normal behavior.
The United States was not founded as Christian nation. In fact, the Founding Fathers made it very clear that a nation founded on the Christian religion was not what they were envisioning. However, a great many of this nation's people are and were Christian's at the foundation of this nation. In that spirit, life for women in this country, for the majority of its history, has not been fulfilling. They have been treated like property, ignorant wenches, mindless servants, or tools, aka whores, to be used at the whims of whichever men came upon them. Women have been expected to follow the axiom that is better to be seen than to be heard. This is an absolute load of hogwash. Just like every male in this country, every woman has the right to expect fair and equal treatment in all aspects of American life, and when they fail to receive that, or find themselves being subjected to treatment that they find to be objectionable and oppressive, they have a right to resist the powers that are keeping them in those conditions. The 19th and 20th centuries gave rise to some of the most amazing unsung heroes in American history. I say unsung because even to this very day, women who have fought for the equal application of American ideals are still marginalized in favor of men. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman, Dorothy Height, Diane Nash, Amelia Boynton, Daisy Bates, Fannie Lou Hamer, Jo Ann Robinson, Yuri Kochiyama, Septima Clark, and countless other women deserve to have their actions immortalized in a monument on the National Mall. Their deeds should be taught to young students nationwide, so that young women can see that they too have the right to expect what men expect, and so that young men can learn that the women in their lives deserve to be treated as equals and even more so, heroes. It is inhuman to teach them otherwise.
There are, however, certain objections that must be raised. This is where the irony lies. As is seen in the above commercial for Folgers Coffee, in national ads, in television, and in movies, women have been belittled, and made to feel like they were worth nothing more than to be kitchen hands, bed wenches, and house slaves who couldn't possibly function without a man in their life. I have a problem with this; however, I also have a problem with the tables coming full turn. Now, men are made to look like adolescent minded, sex crazed, beer sodden, jackasses incapable of living a normal live without their woman to save them from themselves. This is reverse sexism, and I do not think that I should be considered anti-woman because I make mention of it. I am most curious as to why men that note this irony are singled out as woman hating chauvinists. I, and many like me, are not the kind of men that would put women back in that position. In fact, we would fight to keep that from happening. All we ask in exchange is for the same fair treatment. We do not appreciate putting our lives on the line for someone only to turn around and have that sacrifice demonized and disrespected. Further, taking pride in our masculine nature does not make us chauvinists either. We enjoy competition, we enjoy beautiful women, and from time to time, we enjoy a good fight. These things remind us that life is worth living. We are not denying women those same joys, so they should not make us out to be evil and insensitive. Fairness and equality means that we accept each other for who we are without forcing each other to change, so long as we continue to respect one another's rights. A real man understands this and takes even more joy in treating women with the respect and dignity that they have earned. We should be respected for that.
Now, let us move on to a more physical issue, spousal abuse. In the past, men were granted legal immunity when it came to striking their wives. Men that beat their wives are cowardly little turds, just to get that out of the way. However, what of men that take physical abuse from their wives? Should this be acceptable just because she is a woman and not a man? Should a man be forced to endure such treatment just because social convention will put his manhood in question? Why, if he even attempts to restrain his wife from hitting him, will he then be made out to be a wife beater in a criminal or civil court hearing? This treatment is unequal. There is, then, the issue of divorce. Studies have shown that, without question, it is always men that take the full brunt of the damage in a divorce case. A man is more likely to lose his home, his family, his transportation, and his monetary wealth than a woman is. This is not to say that a man does not have some responsibilities to adhere to, but it does say that men are almost always the ones that come out of the deal with the shaft. This is not saying that women should get the shaft also. It means that a fair deal should be struck, one in which both parties are required to pay equally. After all, a marriage is a two way street. Why, then, should the street, if the marriage ends for whatever reason, suddenly become a one way thoroughfare? A basic sense of human fairness should preside in all cases. This is just something to think on.....
On Police Brutality and the Police State: When the ruling class of a society feels that it has to use brute force against its own people to maintain order, there is a problem. When there are more laws on the books than law enforcement can keep track of, there is a problem. When people are in more fear of their own government than they are of foreign invasion, there is a problem. When the people of a nation are more likely to go to jail than to get a job, there is a problem. When criticism is a crime punishable by imprisonment, there is a problem. When the wealth gap in a nation is so wide that the greater majority of its people are poor, there is a problem. Such are the conditions that we find ourselves in in the United States, and if nothing is done, it will only get worse. Daily, American citizens are subjected beatings, to unlawful interrogations, to arrests without warrant, to imprisonment without just cause, trials without sufficient representation, and to summary executions, among other violations. These are not the signs of a thriving democratic society. These are the signs of a fascist police state. These are not the signs of a nation with a bright future. Rather, they are the signs of a nation that is on the verge of social fallout.
I am inclined to liken this to a quote made by the 19th century railroad mogul, Jason Gould. He is famous for saying, "You can always hire one half of the poor to kill the other half." This is essentially what is happening. The police are people too, but they are being used by the wealthy elite to keep the remainder of the working class at bay. They are empowered by their masters with near absolute power. Questioning a police officer is enough to get a beating in the street. New videos of police beatings surface every day, and in 2015 alone, nearly one thousand people were fatally shot by the police. More shocking, given the heightened state of the state propaganda regarding terrorism, is that an American citizen if exponentially more likely to be killed by the local police than they are a terror attack. This state of affairs did not happen accidentally. It has been intentionally created over the last sixty years. Ever since the quote 'end of the Civil Rights Movement,' American industry has been slowly moving labor intensive jobs out of the country. They have been doing so to avoid paying labor union wages, also known as 'living wages.' This has put millions out of work, forced millions of others into work for less pay, and put millions of people on public welfare. History has shown that the poorer a society it is, the more likely it is to be plagued with crime, social unrest, and state oppression. The top one tenth of one percent of the population in this country, around twenty families, owns over half of the total wealth in this country, and that ratio is getting stiffer by the day. When the poor have no other means to provide for themselves than to commit crime, the type of state that we live in now, a police state, is the inevitable result.
If you are skeptical about the idea that we live in a police state, let us look to the pieces of legislation that solidified that fact, the USA Patriot Act of 2001 and the Freedom Act of 2015. According to these laws, agents of the federal government can confiscate physical and monetary property without warrant, they can authorize wire-taps and other criminal surveillance methods without warrant, they can arrest, interrogate, and put people on trial in special criminal courts without warrant, they can hold someone without trial indefinitely, without warrant, they can conduct searches of private citizens without warrant, and they can deport anyone, including US citizens, without warrant, among other heinous violations. These laws stick the middle finger up at the US Constitution and its guarantees against illegal search and seizure, and other very important protections, and they do so on the most loosely based grounds that they possibly can. All a person has to do is meet a federal official's loose interpretation of three main points; they have attempted to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, they have attempted to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or they have attempted to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. One of the other main aspects of a police state are glaring contradictions between the propaganda spewed in the media and the reality in the streets. This government has done each of these very things in its effort control its own civilian population, and it has done and is doing such things to other nations, also. They are basically saying to us, "Do as we say, not as we do." How many people were told this by their parents when they were children, and how many of us know it to be as big a pile of horse manure now as it was then?
On Revolution, Civil Disobedience, and the Vote: Revolution, civil disobedience, and the vote should not be considered as separate from one another, but rather as a single set of tools that the working classes in a democratic society are equipped with to effect change in that society. They actually work in concert with one another. The first thing that the working class has at their disposal is the vote. If the leaders they have chosen are no longer meeting their needs, they can simply boot them out office in the next election. When the people find this method to either no longer be effective, or to be impossible to attain, another weapon at their disposal is civil disobedience. This is basically where they refuse to obey unjust laws or they use non-violent means to obstruct government operations in an effort to get them to appropriately address the unsatisfied needs of the peole. When this method is either unavailable, perhaps due to an oppressive political climate, or the people loose confidence in its effectiveness, the final tool that is available to the masses is open rebellion, or revolution. Each of these tools have been employed by the American people, and each have their value, but where are we now? Which of these tools should the American employ now in order to improve their station?
Traditionally, the vote has been the most common method by which the American people have expressed their will. However, that vote has not always been equally accessible to all Americans. It was originally only available to property owning white men, but political necessity soon expanded the franchise to all white men. The Reconstruction Era saw this expanded to African American men, with the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, but the KKK and federal acquiescence saw the end of that by the 1880s. Up to this point, the group that had been most left out, was women. Women fought long and hard, using civil disobedience as their primary weapon, for an additional forty years, and with the passage of the 19th Amendment, women had federal law protecting their right to vote. There is a noticeable racial aspect to this, as African American women, as a result of social conventions, were not included in this victory. From the early 1950s to the late 1960s, African Americans struggled to rectify this inconsistency using civil disobedience to gain their many victories. There, of course, is another weapon that can be used, the court system. The reason I did not include this in the title of this section is because this is not a tool that the average working class or poor American has at their disposal. This is method that requires money, something that the poor workings class people of the United States are usually short of.
If all else fails, the people are left with revolution as a legitimate method of redressing their grievances, and I do say legitimate. Unfortunately, revolution has not always been used for good means in this country. Of course, there is the fact that this country was founded by a revolution, but the revolution I am talking about the Civil War. This was a war in which the Southern states of this nation were fighting a revolution to protect their right hold African Americans as slaves. This was not a justified use of this tool; however, the present political climate may very warrant the use of revolution. Voting is certainly looking less and less of a viable means to redress our needs. Just look at the constant accusation of voter suppression. They are not unjustified. As more and more states pass laws that are designed to restrict the young, the old, the poor, the non-white, and anyone else that would vote against the present coprotocracy, how can the people be expected to take any stock legitimacy of a vote that they do not believe matters? Further, who can blame them for simply just not voting at all? Further, history has shown us that civil disobedience can only go so far. The traditional Civil Rights Movement was not just fighting for the vote. They were fighting for fairness before the law, desegregation, access to local and federal programs and facilities, fair wages and good jobs, proper representation, and much more, yet those very things, for which many gave their lives, are not properly enjoyed by all Americans to this day.
As has been noted, state after state is passing restrictive voting laws, federal legislation has been passed that gives the government the power to violate our rights with impunity, there are more people in jail in this country, per capita, than in any other nation in the world, we are in constant daily conflict with law enforcement, and more and more of our jobs are being shipped out of the country while those that remain pay poverty wages. Voting is not helping. As the American people approach another presidential election, they are at risk of seeing a racist criminal as the nominee of both parties. Hillary Clinton campaigned for Barry Goldwater, a Republican segregationist, in 1964, helped author legislation that put thousands of minority Americans behind bars in the 1990s, has been indicted on charges of corruption, again in the 1990s, and is presently under investigation by the FBI for the misuse of classified government information. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is the first presidential candidate to motivate the segregationist vote since the 1960s, and is well known for his shady business practices, which include filing bankruptcy to avoid losing money in bad business deals and creating a fake university from which he funneled thousands of dollars. Further, the candidate that many people do want is not likely to get the nomination because the voter suppression that has been discussed is limiting the people's ability to get him the votes required for him to win. I am, of course, speaking of Bernie Sanders.
At the same time, Donald Trump's antics are running him the risk of being abandoned by the Republican establishment. He and Sanders are both populist candidates. What happens if all of their supporters are left unsatisfied? They are not going to vote their troubles away, as that possibility would have just been shattered. They are not going to use civil disobedience, as history has shown that that has not been permanently effective either. They may very resort to violent rebellion, and if they do, they will not be unjustified. Further, calling them criminals would be unjustified. Regardless, of their antics, Trump and Sanders are speaking to a very important problem in the United States. The working class has been abandoned by both of our major political parties, and we are pissed! If we can't vote to change our fate, and we can't do things peacefully through civil disobedience, the courts are certainly not going to help our poor broke condition improve. Our only option to gain the redresses that we desire will be to take up arms and switch the fear factor upon our government, the government that we are supposed to be in charge of, and make what George Carlin once said a reality, "The people should not fear the government. The government should fear the people." Hopefully, there are people in this country that have enough courage to make it happen. I am growing tired of watching people suffer from hunger and unemployment in the wealthiest nation on the planet. If we want to restore the fairness of democracy in this country, revolution may be our last, best, and only hope to do it.
On Gun Violence: First of all, no matter how cliched this statement is, guns don't kill people, people kill people. The gun is a tool that was invented my man to help make it easier to kill the enemy. If all of the guns in the world were outlawed and confiscated today, tomorrow, stabbing deaths would skyrocket. Whatever the reasons, if someone is driven to kill, they will find a way to do it. The weapon of death will be the item that is the easiest to obtain, whether that be a gun or a kitchen knife. Second, in this spirit, guns, as inanimate objects that cannot function without a human user, are not the cause of gun violence. Again, if there were no guns in the world, we would have a severe problem with knife and sword violence, as was once the case. The causes of gun violence are more complicated than the weapons themselves. Third, owning a gun does not make you a lover and purveyor of violence. A person that owns a gun, but who is well educated in the intricacies of its operation and the ramifications of the power that it represents is less likely to commit murder. In fact, they are less likely to even ever fire the weapon if it is kept for self defense. The only guns that will get shot on the regular are guns used for hunting. Fourth, the government, not Republicans or Democrats, is out to take all of our guns. It is not gun violence that motivates them to pass strict possession laws, it is the fear that an armed populace will grow tired of their weak ass rhetoric and take to the streets with rifles and pistols with the aim of coming for the government's ass. They fear a populace that can fire back much more than they fear random murders. Such actions actually favor their cause of disarming the populace.
So, if guns are inanimate objects that are incapable of functioning without a human user, and thus, cannot be the cause of gun violence, what is the cause of gun violence? This is a loaded question, but it can be answered in three fairly inclusive ways. The first, and most obvious cause of gun violence, is poverty. A poor person, who feels that they have no other options left in life, is more likely to resort to the use of a gun to get what they need than is someone that has a good job with a living wage, a place to stay, and a stable home environment that is not plagued with money troubles. The second reason is mental illness. Someone who, for whatever reason, has been mentally incapacitated and is not in control of their mental faculties does not need to be in possession of a firearm. If they cannot manage themselves without a gun, they certainly will not be able to manage themselves with a gun, and the person that sells them a gun is just looking for trouble down the road. The trouble is that a person that has been disabled mentally is not necessarily easy to sniff out. This is a problem that must be addressed, and is most likely be resolved by the expansion of background check programs. However, ultimately, stricter background checks are not the answer. The real answer is to solve the problem of mental illness. If we, as a nation, were to actually take the time to give the mentally ill the treatment that they truly need, they would be thousands of times less likely to resort to violent actions with guns.
The third cause of gun violence is ignorance, or better yet, a complete and total lack of education about the power that a gun can wield when it is in the hands of a user. We spend so much time banning and restricting weapons and so little time educating young people about guns that they never really grasp the implications of what a gun can do when it is in the hands of a person that has even half a brain, or in some cases, no brain at all. Meanwhile, they play video games every day that glorify gun violence and war. So, they are attracted to guns by their games and by the fact that they are taught that they are bad. They want to experience the cool feel from their game, and they want to put their hands on a gun to see what the big deal is about something that is apparently so bad, yet so cool. Next thing you know, someone is dead. Properly educate our people about guns, from youth, and they will be less likely to have accidents or to commit rampages that take innocent lives. Millions of gun owners around the world own and are in personal possession of a gun every day and they are never involved in a violent crime. It is people who live in desperate poverty, who suffer from mental illness, who are ignorant to the operation and power of a gun, or who are a combination of the these three issues who are most likely to commit an act of violence with a gun. We have to solve the root problems to end gun violence. Taking everyone's guns is not the answer. We need to give people livable work, mental healthcare, and proper education. Do these things, and gun violence, in fact, social violence in general, will drop dramatically.
Finally, to tie this all together, and this is the kicker; in any human society, especially a democratic one, it is vitally important that the civilian population posses weapons, knows their power and significance, and knows how to use them with at least a minimum sense of efficiency. In the earliest part of our nation's existence, this was true because the armed citizenry was this country's first line of defense against foreign invasion. This is why the Founding Fathers granted the civilian population the constitutional right to bear arms. This reality is no less true in the twenty-first century. However, it is just true for a slightly different, but no less important, reason. As the twentieth century showed us, human government can become easily corrupted and extremely destructive. It can turn on its people and criminalize anyone that is a threat to their retention of power. Governments that do not have the broad support of their people, and who are unwilling to give up power, must hold onto that power with the use of brute force. This is what is happening in the United States now. Why else would we be experiencing record occurrences of voter suppression, criminalization of everything that challenges state authority, police brutality, and the formation of a militaristic police state?
The purpose of an armed civilian population now is to resist this corruption and oppression. The American people have to be able to show their government that its power is not unlimited. The government has to be made aware that there are limitations to what it can get away with before it will be forced to suffer the consequences. Not only is this our constitutional right, it is our moral duty as citizens to defend the democratic republic that we have inherited. Acquiescence is not an option. If you want to know what happens to people when they refuse to fight state aggression, just look upon the evil of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. No matter what our individual politics may be, we have to stand up as a people and say, "Enough is enough, God Dammit!" We have to get angry, and we have to defend our rights with our very lives. That is the point of living in a democratic republic. The power to govern does not rest in the hands of the few at the top; but rather, it rests in the hands of the many at the bottom. If we do not do our duty, and we quietly watch as the last vestige of our rights is stripped away, we will wake up one morning in a nation that we cannot recognize and that is so oppressive that death would seem more endurable. Unfortunately, this has already begun, but we do have time to prevent the worst from happening. We still have time to tell tyranny that it is not welcome in this country. However, if we do not act soon, it may be too late. I pray that there are enough well meaning citizens left that have the courage, and the wherewithal, to set aside their petty differences and do what is right for the nation. If there is not, I fear the consequences.....After all, was it not Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "If you have nothing in your life worth dying for, then you have nothing worth living for...?"
To Be Continued.....