Shaky Foundations

School lunches and all the other domestic frills can wait.

Venomous Politicians, Rotten Planks

Something I learned after being out of the States for a few years was that America’s flaws and deficiencies are not casual. They’re built into the system from its inception. The foundations of American “democracy”–a misnomer enunciated by de Toqueville six decades after the founding of the American republic in 1776 and flogged relentlessly since then–were designed to deceive, not to support. For most of the “liberties” guaranteed by the United States Constitution they included an effective antidote. To counter democracy, considered at that time the feared and despised rule of the unwashed masses, they devised the electoral college, which can override the results of free and fair elections. The revered “checks and balances,” also established in the Constitution, permit the Supreme Court to override the will of both the president and the congress. That anachronism, which has been simmering on the back burner for a couple of hundred years has suddenly become, in the 21st century, a burning issue of life-and-death significance. Over that fire dangles the health and wellbeing of all American women, half the population of the nation. I must emphasize that. HALF THE FUCKING COUNTRY, the better half.

Gerrymandering and the filibuster do not figure in the constitution but they were devised later by devious legislators, just as the Supreme Court came up with the monumental 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision, a monument to slime. And when fate inevitably delivers to the American people a preponderant majority of a venomous President, a complicit Court and a crooked Congress, all under the sway of uber-powerful economic and religious interests, big oil, big arms, big pharma, big everything–the union of church and state is already a reality–the citizens, the country and the world, are all on the edge of the precipice.

What are the rotten planks in America’s philosophical, doctrinal underpinnings and how do they manifest themselves today? Let’s start with “rugged individualism,” the concept that rules the United States and differentiates it from all the normal countries on earth. All governments, unless they are run by serial killers, strive to achieve the wellbeing of their citizens. (I know what you’re thinking. How do we determine whether or not the United States is run by serial killers? That requires some study.) Countries may have more or less success, they may be more or less corrupt, they may go through stages of more or less authoritarianism–which is one of the reasons the US is so devoted to war; it lubricates the gears of authoritarianism–but in essence most of these countries exist for the benefit of their citizens, the commonwealth. Only one of the American states declares itself a commonwealth, and it’s one of the most civilized: Massachusetts.

Who Wouldn’t Buy the My-Country-Is-Best Scam?

Then we have the my-country-is-best-because-I-was-born-here plank: patriotism. This is the most absurd and perhaps the most powerful, most deceptive and most dangerous. It is for this senseless “truth” that American mothers and fathers send their wonderful offspring off to unpronounceable countries to be maimed and killed and returned in plastic bags, not to mention the heinous and irreparable damage done to people in other countries. This I-was-born-in-Alabama-so-I-can-kill-you patriotism is a formidable mechanism for advancing business plans and geopolitical strategies, but for all the countries involved and their people, it is simple criminal insanity. We must admit, however, that American patriotism represents a tribute to their ability to turn reality on its head, by converting the cruelest and vilest possible motivation into one of the pillars of the national ethos. The question that I find most troubling is, why doesn’t anyone seem to notice?

The myth of a “free economy” is another powerful plank. This is one of the myriad of perverted American uses of the word “free” and its noble-sounding derivatives which the American media exploits so handily at every turn: free country, free elections, free offer, freedom fries, though you will never hear American paid killers referred to as “freebooters” or “mercenaries.” They are “contractors.” My grandfather was a contractor, and I clearly remember the smell of stale cigars in his van, but I don’t recall him killing anyone. There was a time when American workers, the vast majority of the population and the principal generators of the national wealth, enjoyed a degree of freedom, assured by an effective union movement. But extreme-right-wing industrial interests have been chipping away at workers’ rights for decades, leaving the union movement a hollow shell at best and, at worst, an accomplice of big everything.

Master Plank Guarantees Long-Term Misery

America’s ongoing strategy of world domination, by military means and otherwise, is the master plank. After World War II, American economic dominance was absolute. It was a giant country, replete with natural resources and native ingenuity which, unlike all the rest of the countries that participated in the war, had not been devastated. The American government recognized that as an opportunity early on and in July of 1944 and convened 44 countries to a conference in the bucolic New Hampshire town of Bretton Woods. When the conference was over the world had adopted a system of defining currencies relative to the American dollar, making the dollar the obligatory currency for world trade. In the process they created the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, two key entities in the American takeover of the world economy.

A key collateral element in the success of the Bretton Woods plan was a military force sufficiently powerful to police the whole world. That was, and remains, expensive, increasingly so as time goes by. Finally, it reached the point where the American government was obliged to make a choice. Do they bet on domestic development–roads, bridges, schools, dams, health and other public services, workers’ rights, maternity and paternity leaves, free education as opposed to loan slavery for the poor? Or do they opt for the financing of now and future wars: military bases abroad, around a thousand of them at a best guess; highly-profitable arms development and manufacture; feeding, clothing and equipping an army, air force, navy and space force; and let’s not forget the massive overlapping spider’s webs of intelligence services. The choice was evident. School lunches and all the other domestic frills can wait.

The question remains, how does a country, no matter how rich and powerful, go about uprooting and replacing such a galaxy of superfluous ideological and material claptrap? As I see it from here, they probably can’t. It would require a concerted (everyone pulling together), forceful (driven by common convictions), egalitarian (the benefits are for everyone), disinterested (a massive effort on behalf not of individuals but the commonwealth). Who can reasonably expect to see something like that happening in the United States in this millennium?

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