(What? Nobody ever told you?)
Oh, yes. It started even before we were officially a Nation. In 1786 in Massachusetts, Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary War was, with many others, staggering under crushing debt and high taxes. Facing a possible turn in debtors prison (fine old Dickensian holdover, wasn’t it?) Shays led a revolt of impoverished farmers. Patriot lawyer Samuel Adams wrote up a riot act suspending Habeas Corpus and the militia put down the protest, killed a few, hanged a couple. The people were up at bat for the first time.
Several years later another handful of disgruntled veterans of the Revolutionary War (sound familiar?) living on the frontier in Pennsylvania and ignored by the elite back East, eked out a modest living making whiskey. To pay debts to bankers for war costs heavy excise taxes were levied on their product. They revolted. The militias were sent in and they, too, lost.
“A reign of witches”, Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State under George Washington, aimed this jeremiad at Presidents Washington and Adams. This honorable duo were convinced our young Republic was so threatened by the French revolution and the Democracy it championed, they wanted war with France to stop it.
Jefferson was further appalled when the Alien and Sedition Act was passed and enacted. This early piece of fear-mongering legislation was father to countless future acts designed to make certain democracy remained a rousing slogan and little more.
Among the immediate results of this passage and the suspension of the Bill of Rights, was the arrest and prosecution of opposition newspaper editors. Armed mobs attacked the offices of the Philadelphia Aurora and presses were destroyed. Criticism of our fledgling government led to the ultimate sacrifice for the young publisher, Ben Franklin Bache. Benjamin Franklin, demonstrably the most sincere democrat of the founding clique, was his grandfather. Alas, Poor Benjamin’s Legacy: trivialized in history books as that quirky old dude with the almanac and kite. Take that demos!
_Strike three._ The game is not going well for the folks, so far.
Enter now President Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.” Apparently he was not referring to his own blood as he sat out the war at home in Monticello. He managed to serve two full terms as President without vetoing even one single bill of Congress. Tom owned 600 slaves; denied suffrage was the due of women and men without sufficient property. Still he is regarded as the best friend the common folks ever had. Those were the good days; it got worse.
Six years after Jefferson retired again to Monticello the Seminole Wars began, ushering a non-stop series of ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and gunboat diplomacy that continues to this day. It made next to no difference which political party was in ascendance, the march to power was assured. For two hundred years, Democracy- for-all leftist humbug, masking a heavy rightist plutocracy, has clanked forward, scarcely hindered by popular outcry.
The reactionary elements plaguing us today differ little from their anti-democratic ancestors. We have seen consistent disdain for the masses by the political class from the very founding of the Nation. Populist efforts have been tolerated as Loyal Opposition in the best of times: trivialized if considered annoying at other times; scurrilously demonized or worse if threatening the status quo at any time. Democracy has always been a kind of show pony to gain the good opinion of the nations of the world. Like a backward relative only trotted out to show our compassion. You can’t be seen as top drawer if you are known to beat the hired help.
The goal of the ruling class has long been to keep everyone from learning the true
plutocratic inclination of our government. It wasn’t as easy early on to weave the spell of a benign democratic proclivity in light of atrocious actions occurring all around, but it was done.
In those early pastoral years, aside from blazing political oratory, street corner pamphleteering and billboard plastered barns, only the press was available. The struggle to convince us we were a democratic society and not the product of a rightist and enabling leftist cabal, was never easy for our masters until the powerful electronic media that came in with the twentieth century. Now it’s a cinch.
We are able now to fight two wars simultaneously, station troops at hundreds of bases around the globe, provide second world quality health care and educate millions for jobs that no longer exist and, borrow the money from our rivals to accomplish this. All the while professing it is done in the name of the people; hailed aloud as democracy in action, and meaning it! That’s the kicker; we really believe it all makes sense.
Would our perception of ourselves be the least bit different tomorrow if the NY Times and CNN announced the following? “Congratulations. You have accomplished the first citizen sponsored, democratically produced… World Wide Empire, in history.”
_Game over._ The People forfeit.