Somewhere, sometime, accelerating rapidly recently, we Americans have lost it--the American Dream.
We were the land of opportunity, the land of equality, warts and all. We were imperfect from the start, but who isn't. Our Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and Constitution, establishing our Representative Democracy will live on forever as monuments to a people trying to free themselves from the malfeasance of others and us from our government. Our forefathers, however, ignored the obvious. They forgot to truly try to protect us from ourselves.
We have committed numerous acts of great courage and worth to mankind, yet suborned reprehensible activities elsewhere and here. Slavery, for example, was hardly our shinning hour. But we kept trying to move forward and upward, shine our light. We were and to many still are, a beacon of hope to the world, to ourselves, that magical land of aspirations with opportunities to be fulfilled, dreams to be pursued, freedom to be lived, education to be had, jobs to be worked, money to be made. To most we are the land of equal opportunity, the land of social conscience, the land of laws and fairness.
We have fought for the oppressed and still do. We are possessed with a messianic zeal, helping people we perceive as utterly hopeless, vastly oppressed. These people are virtually always not us, as though none of us meet our criteria.
Our forefathers erected a Constitution designed to do many things. However, amongst its many aims, one crucial and some argue deeply flawed philosophical principle which drove its framing was the belief that wealth among people is held by the highly qualified to lead and therefore those of wealth were to be 'protected' from the masses (mob rule). This principle was deeply written into the constitution. The Federalists, a large group of the to be 'protected', lead by Alexander Hamilton , strongly supported both the Constitution and its ratification. One vehicle of their support was the Federalist Papers which debated hotly for the ratification of the Constitution. Amongst the many issues the Federalists favored, the issue of the protection of the wealthy, was crucial. John Stuart Mill, a Federalist, argued in the Federalist Papers (number 51) for the necessity to protect these 'haves' from the "Tyranny of the Majority" (the under-qualified, under educated, poor, unwashed, majority). However, Patrick Henry, an Anti-Federalist, another large yet not so powerful group, argued that "Our constitution, though boasting an elaborate scheme of checks and balances, did not manage to secure the new government against the danger of minority faction---tyranny by one man, or a few men of enterprise, ambition and wealth". He further argued that, "the preservation of our liberty depends on the single chance of men being virtuous enough to make laws to punish themselves". As we watched the "Super Committee" we see that there is not a single man or woman on that committee who will make a law (vote) in a way which will potentially 'punish' themselves (either electorally or monetarily).
The Federalists version of our Constitution was ratified over the objections of the Anti-Federalists. Our Constitution and the legal system we follow therefore was designed specifically to protect the Minority (the "have's") from the "Tyranny of the Majority" (the "have not's").
Methods our forefathers then and fathers 'now', used and use to protect that elite "Minority" were and are many, some obvious, some not. An 'obvious' example is our laws of taxation, which clearly favor the wealthy. A less obvious but as powerful an example is that of our democracy itself. A representative democracy is flawed in that we elect others to represent us, others who, after being elected, have no real obligation to represent our views. Further, we have a two party system which is responsive only narrowly to the voters and tends to protect the status quo and the position of leadership of the protected class. Given our two party system, a large percent of the population of an congressional district, say 49%, can vote for a losing candidate and yet have no representation at all in Congress. Elections are held too infrequently (2-6 years) with re-election virtually assured, (House 98%, Senate 99+%) further decreasing chances of responsiveness of Congress and making the actual terms of service in the House of Representatives 4 years and in the Senate 12 years. A very long time.
Although our Constitution made an absolute assertion that "all men are created equal", it then made having the right to vote itself absolutely restricted from the beginning, first white, propertied men and then a full 180 years later, to most of us. 180 years. The last expansion of voting rights was in 1971, the 26th amendment, giving the vote to 18 year olds. Perhaps we have missed the point regarding the vote in that it never really mattered much, yet gave us something relatively meaningless with which to be distracted. For example, a majority of citizens wanted Al Gore elected President and so voted. The Electoral College, Constitutionally established because the general citizenry (that's us) couldn't and can't be trusted, elected George Bush. According to our founders and the Constitution, we were saved from ourselves.
We all see this processes at work today. Those we elect apparently represent themselves, not those who voted for them. Once elected, their goal is to be re-elected and to secure post re-election lucrative employment. Obviously deliberation and compromise are not part of their tradition (see Congressional "Super Committee").
Our Constitutionally-based protection of the rich, is becoming a bigger and bigger albatross around our collective, poor people's necks. The government and the wealthy are in lockstep and in control. Bailouts without conditions and NAFTA are perfect examples. NAFTA was supposed to be a great boon to America, according to the Government. NAFTA justified encouragement of corporations by our Government to move jobs and never to be taxed profits off shore. However, NAFTA has failed mightily for the masses, but has been wildly successful for the protected class. Both Middle Class money and Middle Class jobs are dramatically diminished. The corporations have far less Americans to pay (879,000 lost American jobs as of mid-2009 and rising ) and much more threatening and effective leverage with those workers who are left (agree with us and our wants or we'll move). And, the properly connected wealthy are wealthier. Finally, the quid pro quo of these groups with the government is undoubtedly stronger---more high paying "jobs" consulting, more paid speeches, more lobbyists, etc. Has anyone noticed that legislators in Congress, even Presidents, usually leave office far wealthier than when they entered?
Today's 'Tyrannical Majority" of John Stuart Mill are the highly qualified, ambitious, newly highly educated, laid off or un-hired, unemployed and underemployed, etc., who are not protected, marginally valued, yet are the on-going strength of America----the Middle Class. Today's majority, as always, is unprotected from the tyranny of the minority.
It is natural for humans to be acquisitive, be they corporations, wealthy individuals, politicians or just us regular people. That natural and human acquisitiveness (some would say greed), however, obviously needs to be controlled, carefully, certainly not blindly encouraged. That is a tragically undone duty of our government. Our Government abets and encourages acquisitiveness and makes no effort to control it.
The First Amendment of the United States of America Bill of Rights offers one avenue of redress for the masses: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances".
"Traditional non-violent protest theory holds that if the demonstrators are restrained and do not do any violence, yet refuse to back down, then they could conceivably win, as they either will be joined by the forces they face, be allowed to defy the law or government openly and peacefully, or be physically attacked, struck down, and made into powerful moral symbols of the lengths to which the agents of the state will go to enforce its laws". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ochlocracy)
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"
Animal Farm by George Orwell
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