…or: Eradicating the Rats from Our Congress!
When I was a little boy, we lived in rural Missouri, about 30 miles outside of St. Louis. We lived there until I was nine years old. We lived in a small town, but the world was, for me, a very big place filled with wonders and bulging at the seams, with hope and possibility. In spite of the veiled threat of nuclear war between the Soviets and Americans our government made us feel safe. Even though we had regular “duck and cover” drills at school confidence in our leaders made us feel safe. My parents worked hard, provided for us, and because my dad was a Union member, we all had health insurance. I assumed that everyone did, and I think that at that time most did. I doubt that the world was any more politically stable than it is now, but most everyone seemed to believe that anything was possible. There was abundant hope. I’m sure that this was largely a middle-class phenomenon, but there was a very large middle-class. I think that this was, pardon my pun, “trickle-down” from pretty good leadership. I know now that it had to do with the “industrial military complex” being in its infancy. President Eisenhower would warn us about this institution and those who would control and profit from it, becoming the greatest threat to the freedom of the average American.
In 1958 our family relocated from Missouri to California. There was more construction work for my dad and the Union was very strong there. I remember when we were traveling, being a little boy, it seemed as if we were pioneers traveling to the great Wild West. And you know what, it was sort of… true! Even though I was disappointed that Mexican-Americans didn’t wear sombreros, it was to me, exciting and wondrous! It wasn’t easy for my folks, but they were able to make sure that we, my younger brother and I, were protected from such heavy burdens of social pressure, allowing us to just be children. We became Californians! Then came John Fitzgerald Kennedy! From what I could tell, my parents who had been life-long Republicans and didn’t vote for Kennedy became converts to the charisma and competency of this President, as did very many Americans. When he spoke it was like he was speaking directly to you and he was like Jefferson or Franklin or one of the “framers” reborn. It was obvious that he was a “peoples President”! Born into wealth, he had no need to sell one bit of himself to anyone. His father had stressed that they were fortunate, being wealthy Americans, and that they would be behooved by that fortune to become public servants. In that role, JFK made us all feel like anything was possible and I do mean anything. Take for instance, “We’re going to the moon!” And though we did have a standoff with far reaching implications, with Russia. We won! It was a time when Americans felt like and actually were the moral conscience, human rights and social leaders of the World!
Then the turmoil began. John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas and Lyndon Johnson became the President. Then we lost Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr… then Bobby Kennedy! Though Johnson managed to get the Civil Rights Act passed, he escalated and became obsessed with Vietnam, a mistake and trauma that would overshadow many great things he did and that were happening. The Draft… the conscripting of young American boys into the armed forces would begin the great change. Nixon would begin the de-escalation of the war, but then became the most disgraceful leader in modern American history… The Vietnam War, sold under threat of the domino effect of Communism (bullshit), would be the beginning of Eisenhower’s greatest fear. The Industrial-Military-Complex invaded the United States economy, to eventually determine every aspect of American life. Spanning the better part of two decades, Vietnam would give birth to private industry and businesses so rich and powerful that they would gain the ability to “lobby” (bribe) Washington D.C. and influence American policy, law, and social stability. An industrial complex supporting a massive armed force would become an entity of its own, spawning a wealthy class of citizens enjoying privilege like European Royalty. As this class grew and spread into every sector of the economy, someone would have to pay their way. The middle-class became overtaxed, underpaid and underserved, as the Nation’s economy began to transfer from the average citizen to the upper one percent (1%). This trend would continue right up to our current situation.
A succession of weak Presidents like Ford and Carter paved the way for the fatal Presidency of Ronald Reagan. A complete sell-out to the rich and powerful businesses, and a promoter of a covert military, he broke the back of the Unions when he broke the Air Traffic Controllers strike, allowing those Union members to be displaced by non-Union employees. The Unions had made possible things like wages that kept up with inflation, top-notch health insurance policies for members, and arbitration with companies to assure employee safety and quality work and goods production. Without the Union protections, American workers would be at mercy of purely profit-based business that looked at the “bottom-line”” as the primary if not their only consideration! His covert military would take up the cause of protecting business interests abroad. The country of the people, by the people and for the people was gradually disappearing into the distance like fading sunlight as night approaches. A very dark picture was taking form in the United States of America.
The blow of the “Bushes” was softened by the charisma of William Jefferson Clinton, briefly, though the Industrial-Military-Complex was still on the march promoting war, profiteering and deregulation of the financial industry to unprecedented levels in spite of warnings that history provided. The transfer of the economy to the top one-percent was escalating at nearly unstoppable speed. All the while, Americans had become complacent and continued to trust that government would, in the end, come to their aid. Over the years since Reagan, Unions had been sold as evil and counter-productive to the economy. Safety in the work place became substandard as the average worker worked longer and harder hours to maintain a secure and stable life-style. A new phenomenon appeared as somewhat of a bewilderment to most, at the time… the presence of a growing “homeless” sector appeared in our society. “Why” wasn’t apparent! We couldn’t see that if the wealthy remained the top 1%, and the middle-class was diminishing… poverty had to be flourishing! The American way of life had transformed. Things that made us what we were, were disappearing or being stifled and rebranded as counter-productive to our economy. War became acceptable as a sadly necessary part of our culture and the times we live in! International Treaties were deemed inapplicable to the United States government. It seemed that almost out of nowhere America was grabbing people and shuffling them off to clandestine locations, torturing them and defying international law. The government didn’t need warrants to wiretap and spy on its people. Privacy was unimportant. Americans, like the enemy, could be locked up without “habeas corpus” in the process, and for indeterminate lengths of time with no legal representation. Two-percent (2%) of the population would, over the course of each year, be incarcerated. Doctors were being assassinated for carrying out legal procedures. Civil rights were first being given to citizens and then taken away in backlashes of the Religious far-right interfering with government and the law. Government mandated that citizens must buy a poor quality product from unethical businesses under the threat of penalties, with no acceptable, reasonable product offered under that law (health insurance). Federal authorities intervened in legal conflict with State laws, arresting people for things that their State had deemed legal (medical marijuana)! Maybe worst of all, no one will take responsibility for the environment of our Planet and the destructive effect we are so obviously having on it. This has all culminated into the financial melt-down of 2009, and still the people struggle for justice and for the government to come to their aid, but it falls on deaf ears that have been silenced by financial reward from lobbying (bribery) by the Military-Industrial-Complex that silently has instituted a coup on the United States Congress, stripping the people of their representation in the Federal governing system. Half measures that appease the people and sustain the power of the top 1%, yet really change nothing, are all we can get out of them.