The History of the United States began with Dutch merchants creating profit-making colonies, Englishmen fleeing oppression for their religious beliefs, and Frenchmen, curious as to why anyone would deliberately live in a wilderness when they could live in France.
The history of the nation expanded with Irish, fleeing starvation; Scaninavian/German/Polish landless farmers seeking land; innumerable eastern, southern and Mediterranean Europeans fleeing otherwise inescapable poverty and oppression; and, slaves.
The rift between slave-holders and non-slaveholders was apparent by the time the Declaration of Independence was signed. It was addressed, with increasing acrimony, in every piece of territorial legislation until 1860, when acrimony overcame legislation and the urge to beat some sense into the Other Guy overwhelmed the process of government.
The Civil War was fought over two opposing idealisms. Within the sometimes brutal bigotries and exclusions of the times (no women were welcome in the workplace, for instance), it still broke out this way:
– In the North, all men were equal. No one was considered intrinsically superior to another.
– In the South, some men were considered superior by birth; genetically superior.
That’s what it was all about.
Everyone believes at some level that This Family/nation/people is The Best There Is. It’s probably unhealthy to think otherwise, at least, while you’re growing up, but it’s a lousy form of government. In fact, it’s the basis of all monarchy.
Even in the face of the well-known bloody, murderous histories of almost all the crowns of Europe, up until 1915, belief was still fervent throughout the continent that royalty ruled through “Divine Right” – because They were better than Everyone Else, A coup was no more than Trial By Combat, don’t you know. Keep in mind, the Europeans invented The Dark Ages.
One of the main reasons Europeans came here was freedom to govern their own lives, to rule themselves. When you examine Lincon’s wartime decisions, you find they all reflect his belief that this nation needed to stand for individual equality. That was the basis for his eventual abolishment of slavery. This nation, alone in the world in its declaration of freedom for all, was among the last Western government to permit enslavement of part of its populace.
Self government requires The People to operate the government.
To be candid, our government scares the shit out of me. I couldn’t even begin to operate it. I feel the same way facing a voting machine I’d feel looking at a control console for Hoover Dam, or the New York City subway system. I’m not much more responsible operating a voting machine as I would be piloting a 747. Or so it seems.
That’s why our legislators don’t have term limits. We’re all thinking, “I can’t run this thing!! They’re pros. Let them do it. They know how to get things done. ”
[here insert hollow laughter]
Maybe that worked for a while. It wasn’t the way it was intended, though, and it doesn’t work now.
Legislating was never supposed to be a full-time job. Senators, Representatives, at neither the Federal nor the State levels were supposed to be full-time employees of the government. That’s what Civil Service workers are for – to keep track of everything, so that part-time legislators can get things done.
Just ask yourself: if you were Eric Cantor’s father, and he brought hom the kind of report card he could show you today, how would you feel? What would you do, now that spanking is reserved for private entertainment?
See, Eric Cantor walks like a suburbanite, talks like one, too. He looks sort of like You&Me. He could work in your bank, your accounting firm, your car dealership. But, he doesn’t. He works in the Federal Congress, as one of its decision-making executives.
He’s not eligible to work there.
He’s not One Of Us. He’s not actually one of his own constituents. He’s got other things on his mind.
We are no longer being governed by our peers. Ever since the late 50’s, Congress has voted itself pay increases that would make Teamster officials blush, if they still could.
Legislating is supposed to be part-time work for civic-minded citizens. And we should live in a world that doesn’t require every second of our lives to pay for it. And it’s up to us to demand it.
Aw, shit. Here I was amusing myself, and suddenly I’m trying to Mean Something or another.
See, I was in the middle of a piece, where the Costa Concordia was wrecked because one of the passengers with a cabin next to the bridge was listening to a Rick Santorum podcast, and the engine-room telegraph line suddenly just snapped.