Bryan Zepp Jamieson
May 6th 2023
In the wake of the latest mass shooting in Texas, Greg Abbott, putative governor of that benighted state, blamed the shooting on the government.
My comment on Facebook was “Someone notify this stupid bastard that in Texas, HE is ‘the government.’”
I drew a good response from one fellow who wrote, “That’s one of the strangest things these aholes are allowed to get away with when addressing their base; ‘It’s somebody else’s problem. Sure you elected me to fix the problems, but that still doesn’t make them my problems.’”
Well, that’s not by accident. I wrote back, “Ever since the Kochs hit on the realization that the only way they could seize power was to divorce government from the people. Thus elected Republicans would pretend that they were the freedom fighters and ‘government’ the enemy they struggled against, And as they made government less representative, less helpful, less honest, they would say, ‘See? Our self-fulfilling prophecy has come true!’ Only fools elect people to government who want to destroy government.”
Did the Founders consider this when they wrote the Constitution?
Of course they did. They recognized that in order to have a viable representative Democracy, there were two major social forces that had to be curbed and held in check: The aristocracy, and the churches. James Madison, considered the chief architect of the Constitution wrote some twenty years later, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries.” While he was working on the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson, then in Paris (and an early supporter of what eventually became the French Revolution) petitioned Madison strongly for a bill of rights, one of which would include what amounted to a 100% real property estate tax in order to prevent the rise of an aristocracy like the ones he saw enslaving England and France. (Unfortunately, that one didn’t make the list.)
Churches are still churches, and no matter how well-intentioned, breed malevolent zealots. The aristocracy goes by a wide variety of names: Royalty, plutocrats, corporations, fascists, ‘captains of industry,’ and more recently, “disrupters” and “libertarians.”
Both are fueled by authoritarian impulses, and want, among other things, unswerving loyalties from the masses, a captive audience, and a complete lack of accountability.
Madison and Jefferson, along with most of the Founders, saw the twin threats to freedom for what they were, and resolved to keep them contained.
The results were mixed; many states sneaked through laws against blasphemy and enforced cruel dictates against behavior that didn’t hurt anyone. The aristocracy caused one civil war in support of slavery, the ultima thule of capitalism. They’ve crashed the economy dozens of times, including one that very nearly destroyed the country. They, too, have pushed for cruel and repressive laws, and demanded authority they neither deserved or could handle responsibly or fairly. But overall, the dream of Jefferson and Madison kept those forces of tyranny somewhat in check.
In the wake of the Great Depression and World War II, with the reputation of fascism and capitalism in ruins with the American public, the wealthy elites formed an alliance with the one authoritarian power nexus that working people didn’t instinctively recognize as an adversary: Religion. The preachers, stymied by popular skepticism toward cross-wavers in power, were quite willing to accept an allegiance with the plutocrats. The plutocrats needed help in convincing people that the government was inept, overbearing, and an enemy of the people. They knew the only effective way to do that was have their preachers teach that government is evil. They had jovial clowns like Ronald Reagan to quip, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” and to persuade people that turning over the tax revenue to the super-rich would somehow help the poor.
What they needed was some sort of high-octane moral issue. The ones that galvanized the public, such as civil rights, the environment, and education, weren’t what they had in mind. They wanted angry pitchfork wavers who wouldn’t threaten profits or strengthen the labor pool.
They hit on abortion, an issue of importance only to the type of loons who felt dancing should be a criminal offense, those, and the Catholic Church, which still hadn’t gotten over Galileo.
After that, all they needed was an extreme propaganda network that could block truth and promote lies. Enter Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch, the world’s greatest merchants of hate.
The message was a drumbeat: government bad and evil, profits and gawd good.
So when Abbott blames a mess he contributed to making on “the government,” nobody should be surprised. Republicans have spent generations working to make government weak and ineffectual, and then bitterly blaming it for not being strong and effective. Although when pressed to make government strong and effective, say through gun control laws, effective laws against monopolies and dishonest business practices, or protect the rights of minorities, they claim this would make government overbearing and tyrannical. It’s a three-card monte of a philosophy.
They want government limited to only defending their interests, and only a fool thinks the interests of billionaires or televangelists coincide in any way with the interests of the average person.
All autocracies, whether theocratic, or fascist, or (usually) both rapidly become corrupt, cruel, and detrimental to the security and safety of the society they have sought to enslave.
Need proof? Looks at the studied viciousness and cruelty of the anti-abortion freaks now that they’ve been unleashed. Look at the corrupt members of the Supreme Court that unleashed them. Look at the blossoming corruption in the financial sector, and the next coming crash.
Authoritarians are authoritarians, and waving crosses and flags doesn’t make them “more American.” They are the antithesis of what America is meant to be about. They are not your friends, they are not your protectors, and they will make your life hell if they take over, just as has happened throughout history.
America is not immune to this nonsense; they’ve just had the incredible good fortune to be guided by people who saw religion and landed wealth for the threats that they are.