Last week I watched a documentary about the free speech and anti-war movement that was taking place in the 1960's. I was very young when most of this was going on, so didn't really understand the magnitude of the struggle at the time. I did know that my older cousins were talking about draft dodgers and Vietnam, but that was in a world absolutely alien to my comfortable, middle class existence. The only real impact it had on me at the time was that my German born father, who had no patience with them would regularly rant about "those long haired hippy people". I was upset by what seemed to me even then an unreasonable attack on people just because they were different, but I was too young to vocalize my objections.
So it came to me as, well, not really a shock, but a kind of sad realization that in 40 years, nothing has really changed. Oh, sure, the war hawks in the Whitehouse look different, but they're all the same inside. The bigoted racists who hated Vietnamese, blacks and Commies then are no different than the bigoted racists who hate Muslims, Mexicans and Liberals now. The same kind of vicious words and insults are being hurled at war protestors now as were being thrown then. The warmongers held the reigns of power then and they still do, because making war makes money, and that equals power. Only difference now is that anyone who objects to war is labeled a terrorist sympathizer. How did that happen?
I went to bed after watching that documentary depressed and frankly feeling a little hopeless. Why was I bothering with Out There? Why write columns or do television shows or sign petitions or implore neighbors and friends to vote and refuse to fly when, in forty years, nothing had changed? Oh, sure, blacks got the vote.... or did they? Ask many Democrats in black neighborhoods if they got the vote in 2004. Oh, sure, women gained access to birth control and had reproductive choice as a result of the women's movement.... or did they? Ask women in South Dakota who now have virtually no access to abortions.
At least in 1966, there were no RFID chips in passports and no national ID cards. Closed circuit video cameras weren't tracking your every move. At least then, those who refused to fight an unjust war had an escape route to Canada. Your votes weren't stolen by rigged electronic voting machines, and you could carry shampoo onto an airplane.
As I lay in bed thinking about that documentary, I couldn't help wondering. What went wrong? Why didn't all of that hard work, why didn't all of those lost lives, why didn't all those dreams come to mean anything? Was it all in vain?
In the dark of the night I realized that it is because the power base that controlled things then is the same that controls things now. It's all the same families, the same industry, the same system. I can almost imagine the white men behind the curtains of power smoking their cigars in 1975, laughing, saying, "Well, that'll keep 'em quiet for a few years. We'll get back on track. We'll just pull another Gulf of Tonkin when we want to clamp down again. Let them have their fun."
And so they just waited until we were all lulled into a comfortable state where credit cards, mortgages and astronomical college tuition fees kept us huddled masses working so hard we had no time to look around and see what was happening. They laughed as the worker ants got so brain- washed by sports, reality TV and the side-effects of Viagra they couldn't recognize a set-up when it kicked them right in Manhattan. They waited until the technology existed to ensnare us in the web of our own Internet, insuring that privacy was the relic of a bygone age.
The wizards in the wings knew how to wait. After all, they're not constrained by their own mortality; their plans span generations and centuries. So they waited, reaping their financial windfalls as the proletariat ate, drank and drugged themselves into stupors while the agribusinesses, pharmaceutical companies and oil cartels scooped up all the rewards.
You have to admit, they're brilliant. Evil, but brilliant. But, I pondered, as sleep evaded me until the sun was rising again, what could we do to fix it permanently this time? Is there any way to make sure the next generation doesn't have to fight this again? Or will they be so enslaved and controlled they won't believe they can fight, or worse yet, not realize they should?
And even if they do fight to eliminate something, something must exist to take its place. Nature abhors a vacuum, and if somehow we were able to get rid of all the corrupt people in power, there would be a huge, empty hole in Washington. Republicans and Democrats alike would have to be removed if we were to really change the way things are, but what takes their place? Is anybody ready now?
Ralph Nader can't do it. Ross Perot can't do it. (Is he still alive?) Al Gore and John Kerry certainly can't do it. Who can? Is there anybody out there?
And if there is someone who can lead effectively, upon what platform will they stand? Oh, it's all well and good to say that greed and corruption will no longer have a place in government, but how do you insure that? Our founding fathers tried to cover that in our Constitution, but you can see how far that got us. How do we make this a true government of the people, for the people, by the people? And how do we make sure the government is afraid of us instead of the other way around?
Democracy sounds good, but it's really just mob rule. Socialism is anathema to the American psyche. Obviously Communism doesn't work - remember Animal Farm.
A Republican form of government seems to be a good idea. After all, it is what was planned by our founding fathers, and historically, a republic refers to a government that exists only to protect the rights of the people, and the government derives its just powers from the consent of the people. That means the government itself operates with and under the control of the law. It's a good idea. But how do we make sure it doesn't get back to the way it is now, where the government exists not to serve but to enslave the people?