Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

February 8, 2013

Revolutionaries who Keep Revolting

Thomas Jefferson once blazed revolution and a humane, slavery-rejecting philosophy with his pen, only to retire to a 5,000 acre plantation where he liked to walk on the balcony and oversee a cute, dollhouse-like slave society he had built there, largely self-sufficient with its own little mills and shops, and populated largely by his own enslaved offspring.

Ethan Allen was a man I sometimes like to imagine I was named after. During the Revolutionary War, he captured Fort Ticonderoga for the Patriots without bloodshed, by overwhelming the sentry just before dawn, sneaking 83 soldiers into the fort, and surprising the fort’s commander in bed, like he was fucking-A Batman. After the revolutionary war, Allen returned to Vermont and fought for its statehood, even negotiating with the British to lay a back-up plan for establishing Vermont as a province of Canada if New York would not let the territory go. Then, when Vermont was safely established as a state, he retired to a giant property in the woods and wrote Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, advising people that Christianity was laden with all kinds of oppressive bullshit and that God was expressed through Creation. Think about this until you get it: “the eternal and infinite display of divine power forecloses any subsequent exertion of it miraculously.”

I much prefer the sort of revolutionary who keeps agitating to the one who fades away or fossilizes into a power junkie.

Under the rule of George W. Bush, my liberal friends and I were terrified of the rise of TSA, assassinations by drone-based-missile, the suspension of habeas corpus, the dungeons at Guantanamo Bay and black sites, and the torture that happened there… “Dude, Where’s My Country?” asked Michael Moore. We took solace in the Daily Show and Colbert Report, laughing together at the insanity of the fascist US government. I painted signs and stood around in cold, rainy conditions demanding an end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a leftist peace movement.

Under the rule of Barack Obama, my liberal friends mainly ignored the TSA,  assassinations by drone-based-missile, the suspension of habeas corpus, the dungeons at Guantanamo Bay and black sites, and the torture that happened there, preferring to criticize the President’s conservative detractors. The President coordinated the crackdown on pro-democracy Occupy protesters, and then Michael Moore endorsed the President’s run for reelection. I feel that my own involvement in the peace movement only served a partisan cause, seeing as my outlets for organized protest dried up under Democrat rule, despite expanding abuses against the Constitution and humanity. I resent having been used to partisan purpose by people who came to me as moral authorities advancing urgent, principled demands for peace and democracy. Organizations such as Code Pink and Veterans for Peace will never receive my support in the future, because they took energies activists invested for peace and democracy and turned them into passive support for Obama, a President who repeats, extends and multiplies the abuses of George W. Bush, precisely what we were supposedly working to end. People actually asked me to stop criticizing Obama, believing that Mitt Romney was a worse threat to the Union than the shredding of the Constitution. Where had all of my allies gone?

Dissent from Republicans is patriotic! End this pointless Republican bloodshed and give us a Democrat for commander-in-chief!

At some point, it became easier to locate conservative or rightist allies against rising fascism than leftist or liberal ones. While Michigan’s Democratic Senator Levin was crafting the 2012 NDAA to allow for the Federal government to kidnap Americans and throw them down into oubliettes forever, our Libertarian US Senate candidate, Scotty Boman, was promoting the nonaggression principle and an end to the War on Drugs. Ron Paul was the only major party Presidential candidate of 2012 to oppose creeping totalitarianism, with no Democrats opposing the hit-list wielding President Obama. Editorially friendly to Ron Paul and the 2nd Amendment, the Oathkeepers organized the military to prepare to resist orders to slay or oppress American citizens. While discovering right-wing resistance to fascism was eye-opening, it hardly made me feel like part of a tribe, speaking a common language, united with common purpose.

A few leftists have rejected the placebo of a Democrat President who embraces Wall Street and the military/intelligence shadow government, and continue to fight for peace and liberty. They have distinguished themselves as having rare intelligence and integrity, as most leftists have indicated a willingness to be shipped off to Guantanamo Bay to be raped and tortured if they only can get some health coverage that includes contraception.

Naomi Wolf is an author and journalist perhaps best known for “The Beauty Myth,” an exposé of the unrealistic standard of beauty promoted by cosmetics manufacturers. “The End of America” chronicled the march to a “closed society” or dictatorship under W. Bush. Wolf took a minute to support Obama in 2008, for, like myself, she had not analyzed Obama’s Senate votes with enough suspicion (and Obama did promise to reverse many of Bush’s evil policies). However, she could not ignore that Obama failed to halt any of Bush’s scandalous policies and she continues to report on the slide into fascism to this day.

Here is a snippet of Wolf’s analysis that I think sums up the difficulties of trying to win back US democracy through the ballot and partisan politics: “It’s hard to know how much power any American president has at this point in time. We’re much more like many Latin-American ‘democracies’ in which there is a nominal head of state who cannot really take on the military-industrial complex. But he could certainly have tried harder than he has.” (source)

Chris Hedges is another author/journalist with a background in war reporting, perhaps best known for “War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.” Hedges is the lead plaintiff in a suit against the US government, alleging that the 2012 NDAA provision which authorizes the authorities to toss Americans into oubliettes violates the terms of our Constitution. Such authority is used in dictatorships to eliminate pesky journalists, activists, union and church leaders, and it clearly violates both the Constitution and the spirit of the American experiment. Hedges and his co-plaintiffs all continued fighting for democracy after Obama took on Bush’s mantle: the heroes of this story include Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers, Noam Chomsky, public intellectual, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a not-particularly-leftist Icelandic MP whose government advised her not to travel to the barbaric United States, Tangerine Bolen, journalist, Kai Wargalla, Occupy organizer, and Alexa O’Brien, an IT maven who helped organize Occupy Wall Street but was accused of being a high-level cyber terrorist in cahoots with Al Qaeda. Many of these people worked on Wikileaks or support Bradley Manning. So far, they have won an injunction forbidding the government to kidnap Americans, which the government protested and is taking to appeal.

Journalist Alexander Cockburn kept up his criticism of the Obama Administration until he died in 2012, much to the shock of his fans, who had not known he was sick. His magazine Counterpunch publishes both fearful, we-must-support-Obama articles and articles after Cockburn’s own heart.

There are a lot of leftists still fighting the good fight, but you have to hunt for them. And so, friends, the left limps on with a sorrily tame and pro-establishment Daily Show, grousing impotently about the multiple-Sandy-Hooks-scale crime of the drone assassination program, but mainly focused on the stupidity of conservative Christians who don’t appreciate what Obama is trying to do. Leftists truly opposed to dictatorship and war have distinguished themselves as a principled minority, especially such people as I just named, who have remained active (not so much like myself). I guess for every Ethan Allen who was cheering Jon Stewart against W. Bush, there were about nineteen Thomas Jeffersons who talked the talk and then stepped back to a more comfortable place once the true enemy (the GOP) was safely in check.

If you see one leftist standing on the corner with a protest sign, you know that that person is 100% committed like a Christian martyr. If you see ten leftists there, you know that you are dealing with a generally dedicated group of people. If you see 100,000 leftists in the square, most of them are just tourists caught up in the group spirit, and you won’t be able to find them tomorrow. The best tribe you could ever be a part of, is no tribe.

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24 Comments »

  1. Wow, this is some hellacious good writing!! And your point is well made and pertinent. I would add to your list Glenn Greenwald, who has written some great stuff on the Constitution-shredding that’s continued to expand under Obama. You should definitely look for his work on-line.

    And check out the Rude Pundit. He’s written about this whole drone thing as well.

    I’m appalled, but I would have a hard time joining up with the Right on anything. And I can’t help but wonder where their outrage was when Bush was obliterating Constitutional rights. Those of us who bitched about it were accused of being traitors, as I recall.

    Comment by estraven — February 9, 2013 @ 2:20 pm

    • Good to know a couple more fighters. As for the right wing not resisting Bush — mostly true. Just as the left does not actively resist Obama. But, the people screaming “traitor” were not in the liberty movement, Ron Paul-liking camp.
      So here are a few tangentially-related thoughts you’ve set off…
      Both the far left and far right support Constitutional rights (not always the same ones) and oppose corporatism (tax loopholes, bailouts), which should be enough to put together a platform and oppose the two-headed fascist Republicrat monstrosity. It could be called the “Open Society” party. But, left and right will likely never come together due to significant cultural and policy differences and atavistic identifications with Team Red or Blue.
      The fact that I am able to cheerily suffer libertarians probably relates to working in the marijuana movement. It’s an issue that doesn’t call forth decades of stored bile and venom for the Other Party, ’cause after all, both stupid parties support Prohibition. Maybe we could build coalitions on single issues as a way of teaching left and right that they aren’t each other’s worst enemies.
      Another theory I am considering is that people don’t really identify as Republicans or Democrats — they identify as being opposed to Republicans or Democrats. Hating the other party may be the point for some people, so how could they ever seriously trouble the two-party system?

      Comment by paragardener — February 10, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

      • But much of the Right IS my worst enemy. The enemy that doesn’t want women to control their own reproductive capacities, for example–you know, the kind that allows women to die rather than perform an abortion. The enemy that votes against the Violence Against Women Act. The enemy that preaches “small government”–until the government wants to decide who does what with whom in the bedroom, in which case gov’t control is fine and dandy. The enemy that seeks to make our kids stupid by attempts at outlawing the teaching of evolution or demanding that Creationism be taught as a perfectly reasonable alternate explanation. The enemy that talks about “legitimate” rape, assures us that women don’t get pregnant through rape, but oh yeah, if they do, well there’s that bill in New Mexico that would make it illegal to abort the fetus because you’d be “destroying evidence.”

        Yep, they really are my enemy. It’s only one side supporting the vileness I’ve listed above–and that’s a very partial list.

        Comment by estraven — February 10, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

      • Are you referring to the George Soros “Open Society” folks or was that coincidental?

        Comment by freelearner — February 17, 2013 @ 5:37 am

      • Coincidence. Any two-word political phrase that could be invented, has been.

        Comment by paragardener — February 17, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

      • wait, no… I think that Soros implanted the phrase in my brain. I don’t really know what his organization is up to, though…

        Comment by paragardener — February 17, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

  2. As to regulating activity in the bedroom, that is not at all a trait of the libertarian right (except insofar as the two-party system pressures them to lump with Republicans.) The Republicans in Congress who voted against VAWA? Mainly not freedom activists.

    Some people on the libertarian right DO oppose abortion because they believe that life as a human being begins earlier than you or I believe. Reasonable people can disagree on the question of when life begins. The question has been answered in many ways… on one extreme, there is the Mormon duty to help deliver soul children into the world, and on the other, infanticide. Obviously the stakes are very real and very high for both women and the youngest babies.

    Yet, our political rights are more crucial than even that. The less functional our democracy becomes, the fewer of our legal rights are respected, the more power flows in the top-down direction. Oligarchs already determine the entirely arbitrary rules of money creation (causing the entire human economy to work for them), they influence what medicines we are allowed to take and what foods we are allowed to eat, they own the foundations working to create “a better tomorrow,” and they are angling to create a market in carbon dioxide emissions so that they can control who is allowed to use energy. Is the womb not naturally the next frontier? If the oligarchy becomes a little more secure in their total domination, they will be as happy to force birth control on families as they sometimes have liked to outlaw birth control. The justification will be very scientific and no reasonable person will question it out loud.

    Maybe the Open Society Party is pretty far out there… a fantasy that people could remember the priority of maintaining their rights and power against oligarchy and dictatorship, of people not giving in to totalitarianism whenever their favored party had the reins. I think I am beginning to understand… only a small minority of people perceive the ‘monolithic power’ v. ‘human freedom and diversity’ dichotomy that I live in, opposing all of the bipartisan despotism… most people see a world of ‘abortionists’ v. ‘good Christians’ or ‘rationalists’ v. ‘stupid Christians,’ and politics is simply an arena for advancing one’s own team by any means necessary. That is what I should expect whenever I engage in politics.

    Comment by paragardener — February 14, 2013 @ 8:17 am

    • Very familiar territory. We women just don’t get the absolute superiority of Higher Priorities. And my concern that young women and men should control their own bodies and sexuality is nothing more than “advancing [my} own team by any means necessary.” Thanks, got it.

      Comment by estraven — February 14, 2013 @ 4:33 pm

      • How will you defend women’s bodies without political rights?

        Comment by paragardener — February 16, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

      • Stopping the bipartisan totalitarians is kind of urgent.

        Comment by paragardener — February 16, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

  3. Back during the anti-Vietnam-war era, women were constantly told that our concerns had to take a back seat to “more important” issues. Apparently, our very lives and how they were lived or not lived really didn’t count as Serious Things to Be Discussed by the Politically Savvy. But you know what? If we didn’t talk about women’s rights, rape, abortion, birth control, etc.–well, NOBODY did. And those things are part and parcel of political rights. They are neither subordinate to nor separate from said rights. A right to our own bodies–to OWN our own bodies–ought to be where rights begin. Totalitarianism indeed–when we are told that we must carry a fetus to term regardless of circumstances: it doesn’t get much more totalitarian than that. But, y’know … white male privilege.

    Comment by estraven — February 16, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

    • Well, this is my failure, I let myself get snotty as I gave up in despair.

      Comment by paragardener — February 17, 2013 @ 12:19 am

  4. It seems like the unstated core of your argument is that America is nothing but rich, too rich, even poor Americans are too rich. So we care nothing for economics and industry homeside, the real problem is war in other countries. I would agree that on a global scale people in war regions are the least well off, and should be a grave concern for everyone. I do think you commit a truckload of hyperbole here though. I think you are worried about all the wrong things and are being unreasonably hard on the president. It makes me the same kind of sad that my supporting the liberal agenda makes you.

    Comment by wilfridcyrus — March 25, 2013 @ 8:40 pm

    • wilfridcyrus, did you even READ the OP? There is nothing in this post about economics. It’s about creeping fascism and the ever-expanding police state. I seriously doubt, as well, that paragardener would think that “even poor Americans are too rich.” What’s your reading comprehension level? Or did you post a comment to the wrong OP?

      Comment by estraven — March 25, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

      • My reading comprehension level? Really? You must have missed when I said “The UNSTATED core of your argument”.

        Comment by wilfridcyrus — March 27, 2013 @ 3:56 am

      • w, your comment simply didn’t address the topic of the post.

        Comment by estraven — March 27, 2013 @ 9:49 am

      • You’re both smart people. Wilfrid is letting stuff spill in from other discussions we’ve had, I believe.

        Comment by paragardener — April 1, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

    • Well, not killing people rates quite high in my moral priorities. I was raised on Batman, you know? So where do the American poor enter into this argument about the loss of Democracy and the ascendancy of Empire? I can see that we poor are disproportionately the victims of overzealous policing, so there is an interest here in rolling the police state back. And poor are disproportionately used as the Empire’s triggermen, who really stand to benefit from peace / being pulled out of the killing. The military is positively gobbling Uncle Sam’s money, and Democrats on the Hill are looking the other way and eyeing entitlement-style programs instead. I don’t see anything liberal going on, besides a certain critique of Republicans.

      Comment by paragardener — April 1, 2013 @ 3:13 pm

      • I see the war coming to a close. War deaths down, war spending down, troop levels down. My point was that you always seem to be more worried and upset about deaths over there than deaths at home. Of course you are worried about death everywhere. I didn’t mean to be a dick, just a stray thought caught in cyber space.

        Comment by wilfridcyrus — April 1, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

      • Yes, Obama is winding the wars down on the schedule George W. Bush promised before leaving office (not the “mission accomplished” schedule, ha ha!). We used to expect a lot more than that, which is what I am mourning.
        I don’t know that I can hope to be balanced about caring who dies. I tend to think of September 11 in terms of “maybe about 1/4 of the deaths that resulted that same day from politically-enforced starvation,” though it probably makes me an asshole not to say that it was totally the biggest tragedy I’ve ever witnessed.

        Comment by paragardener — April 1, 2013 @ 8:15 pm

      • Maybe I -should- pay more attention to the problems of the poor at home, I’ll keep it in mind.

        Comment by paragardener — April 1, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

  5. Yes, I believe w was replying to other discussions, but was very off-topic in this particular reply. However, I apologize for impugning w’s intelligence.

    Comment by estraven — April 1, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

    • it’s okay, we can both be pretty in different ways

      Comment by wilfridcyrus — April 1, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

      • WTF does that mean? I’m not pretty, I’ve never been pretty, and so what? Are you being sexist here? I’m not appreciating the “humor”. I apologized, meant it, it was in good faith, and you reply like this. Jesus H Christ on a unicycle. Fuck off.

        Comment by estraven — April 1, 2013 @ 9:14 pm


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