“Liberty is a strong food, but a difficult one to digest; it needs a healthy stomach. I laugh at those degraded people who, letting conspirators incite them to rise in arms, dare to speak of liberty, without having even a notion of what it is; who, with hearts a prey to all the vices of slaves, imagine that to be free they need only be rebels.”
– Jean Jacques Rousseau
“If…If…We didn’t love freedom enough.”
– Alexsandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
“He would never be able to live in a democracy, no matter how diluted a form it took. The uniform – the esprit de corps, the ideology – he had worn since he joined the KGB as recruit in his twenties had become an outer skin as far as he was concerned. And he could not shed his skin. What would be left of him if he did?”
– Henning Mankell
“I do not believe that we are helpless. We can turn things around. In order to do so, the American people must counter malaise with an open and honest national conversation about the issues that confront us today. Then we must unite and act.”
– Aaron Jaffe (quoted in Charles M. Barber, Judge Aaron Jaffe: Reforming Illinois, A Progressive Tackles State Government, 1970-2015)
“Investigating serious crimes meant putting the rest of one’s life on hold.”
– Henning Mankell
There are all kinds of ways to overthrow constitutional freedoms and Democracy by using democratic means and legal levers. One of the first “how to destroy democracy” books available for use by 20th Century tyrants was Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” But the warnings of wise men and women about such tactics go as far back as Ancient Greece: Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato and Aristotle.
The greatest dangers to freedom and democracy, however, are to be found in civic laziness and lack of self control and common sense: a failure to use the gifts of freedom, voting, agitating, organizing and door to door persuasion on a daily basis to sustain hard fought freedoms into the future. But finally, in 2018, a critical mass of Americans has awakened to the dangers of a dissolution of our Constitution and its 200 Year old vision for democracy.
Our First Branch of Government, the Legislative one, is in the grip of a bunch of tight assed, white, male yahoos, who claim to be Christians, but don’t remotely “love their neighbor” in any recognizably biblical sense. Too many disciples of the gospel of greed as preached by Harvard Business School and Yale Law School are in charge of the nation’s finances and economic well being (see Steven Brill, Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall-and Those Fighting to Reverse It). Too many moral cowards among the Majority Republicans in Congress have preached “family values,” while neglecting the fate of abused children at our Land Grant Universities at Penn State and Michigan State; not to mention the forced separation of babies, children and their parents in the name of “Making America Great Again.”
Our Second Branch of Government, the Executive, is headed by a pussy grabbing, serial liar, Donald Trump, who is proud to flaunt those defects in his defense of sworn enemies of the American way of life, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
Our Third Branch of Government, the Judiciary, has long been the battleground between those who would expand our freedom to choose among the sacred options of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and those who would restrict human freedoms to conform with a rigid doctrine, dogma, or ideology of their own. As we focus upon the July 4th holiday this year amidst the blowing off of firecrackers, one wonders if by this time next July 4th, 2019, we might not have blown up the reason for celebrating in the first place.
I am one of the few people in Mandan, ND, who does not blow up his yard and street with M-80’s, Cherry Bombs and “rockets red glare,” but I truly enjoy the spectacle from my little hill while my neighbors do it. This is the same hill where I often meet my KGB canine friends, and they agreed to pay me a visit. This time they brought along an old friend from Cook County, Illinois, “Chicago Dog,” whom I knew from 50 years ago when we sniffed out and snuffed out voter suppression in Chicago the old fashioned way; going door to door and asking each citizen for their support on election day.
High Plains Reader: Hello Old Friends! We live in interesting times. I’m worried about my country and the way that Trump sells us out to dictators and oligarchs. Is it really as bad as it looks?
Putin: No. Things can always get worse, like they did in the old Soviet Russia and still do in Vladimir Putin’s “new,” but not that much improved Russia.
Rasputin: Thank God for the World Cup! Real money coming into Russia that isn’t based on oil, gas, extortion, intimidation, or the suborning of Donald Trump. Besides, in the U.S., you’ve always had oligarchs selling out middle class democracy. They’re known as Wall Street and D.C. corporate lobbyists.
HPR: You mean Trump’s most intimate friends! It looks as if our Supreme Court loves this venal 1% of the nation and their dark money as much as Trump and the Republican Congress seem to adore them. What can ordinary people do?
Chicago Dog: Vote Democrat stupid! Even rich Republican women know it this year, if only for the sake of their daughters and granddaughters. Fall back a bit if you want to become an octogenarian in good health! You have reinforcements. Unlike too many folks in the past few political generations, young people and women of all ages have finally figured out that they have to get off their collective asses and organize like we did against the old Daley machine in the 1970’s, and like the Tea Party did in 2010 in support of their racist and anarchist agenda.
HPR: But young people and all too many minorities have never really showed up in off-Presidential years to vote. Tight asses always do. I’m one of them.
Rasputin: Relax. (Special Counsel) Robert Mueller is a tight ass about the rule of law, just like you are about freedom and equality. He also has plenty of company in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and the press, who are fighting the good bureaucratic, legal, logistical, expositional, and rhetorical fight.
HPR: But Trump has this thing for dictators in general and Putin in particular. And, as the President of the United States, he and his Congressional allies are doing everything in their power to short circuit Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s venality and treasonous behavior.
Chicago Dog: True enough. Things may well get worse for the Republic, before they get better. The good news is that Trump is a colossal physical, mental, and moral coward. He can’t handle any sort of truth, large or small. While it is true this made him vulnerable to Vladimir Putin years ago, it also makes him vulnerable to the daily pressures of the Presidency in a still functioning democracy.
Rasputin: The old saying that “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow,” is true for Putin’s hold on Trump. But it is also true for Republicans who have any desire to remain in Congress in 2018, with hundreds and thousands of voting age citizens organizing and raising hell on their office and home doorsteps. Even Trump/Putin propaganda outlets like FOX news are forced to let truths spoil their day in this remarkable year.
HPR: What about the truth of separating babies and children from their mothers and fathers and putting them in cages? That’s what Trump has done with his war on helpless Central American victims of U.S. corporate politics and “war on drugs” idiocy of the past 80 years?
Putin: Hey! There’s good money to be made in the private prison business from America’s drug and legal hypocrisy, and the human misery it produces. What was good for Al Capone in the days of Prohibition, has been good for his successors among the drug cartels, opioid pushers, and their political enablers in the U.S.
Rasputin: The prisons of our soul are reflected in the prisons that we let men get rich off of, due to our failure to welcome children of the best and brightest of the world who would enrich our heritage; as well as welcome our own children into a world free of the drugs of hatred and intolerance.
HPR: I feel that President Trump has brought out the worst in us; that he is a national enemy of all that our Founding Fathers had stood and hoped for.
Chicago Dog: Actually, Trump is more like a national enema: a wake up call to get the shit of bigotry and itch to control other people’s lives out of our system.
It’s hard work to go door to door in search of Americans who will vote for the kind of progress that we say we believe in every July 4th holiday. But it is the only way that has worked in the past to prevent us from sinking into a sea of violence. And it is the only way to save American democracy in 2018 and in the years to come.