Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Declaration of Who-Gives-A-Damn

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

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What do you do when you love your country, but hate the people who run it?

Mark Twain displayed a cynicism toward government and politics that is often felt in American politics, but seldom voiced - especially by nationally-renowned figures and artists.

I've been thinking a lot lately about what's happening in America these days - the corruption, the incompetence, the secrecy. Not that any of this is particularly new, but because people still sit back and try not to think about the crimes their government is committing in their names.

Where are the Mark Twains of today?

Part of it, I think, is an overload of information. If you want to say something in today's society, you have to be either a "celebrity" or politician or someone else who is guaranteed TV time.

Our Founding Fathers had an idea. They wrote down all the grievences against their king, signed it, and sent it off express-style. They weren't going to put up with the "establishment of absolute Tyranny over these States," and they weren't afraid to say it.

But, in today's world, a signed letter - even a petitioned signed by 10,000 Americans - wouldn't make a splash in the pond. It would be ignored, or brought to committee and quashed, or appear as a letter to the editor, devoiding it of any true muscle or influence.

So the question remains. What can we do to address the problems we see in government? Can we rely on a tame, roll-over media? Can we rely on a Justice Department that rests, comfortable and warm, in the seat pocket of the President? How about Congress? Isn't that how a republic works?

When Thomas Jefferson wrote that his king "has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them," it's almost like he was addressing them to today's political climate (see: the ban on torture). If the administration doesn't even care to obey the laws that are written, why not throw up our arms and consent to a dictatorship?

Cheney would love it. So would all the corporations that have done so well these past few years while more and more Americans suffer.

So why fight? And how do we fight, if we want to? Can we really make a difference?

One person, one vote. We always have that. But election records show incumbents are more-than-likely to get re-elected by their constituents, it either means (a) voters really like the candidate or (b) most people don't give a shit.

And when we become proud of the 60 percent turn-out levels in the 2004 elections, you know we've become desperate for participation in a democracy.

Plato famously said that "one of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors."

Is participation the problem? If the government theoretically works for us, the governed (from which it derives its power to govern), why haven't we given Washington a pink slip?

Sometimes I think I care too much.

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