Friday, August 8, 2014

A Republic, M'am, If You Can Keep It

"What sort of government have you given us, sir?" a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, outside the Constitutional convention. 
"A Republic, ma'm, if you can keep it," he replied.

One of the problem with a government which is supposed to represent its people, which is supposed to respond to what they are thinking,  is determining exactly what it is "the American people" are thinking. Mostly, what we hear is inchoate noise.

When you hear a politician or a pundit tell you what "the American people" are thinking it's what he thinks. "The American people" think we need this or we should do that is pretty much what the speaker thinks we need or should do.

But how do opinions get formed? How does conventional wisdom get made?  It's often a case of, "If you say it often enough, it's true." Shakespeare had the line, "In speech, there is logic," which Mad Dog found opaque as a youth, but he now understand translates as, "It doesn't matter how absurd, illogical, bizarre what you say is; if you say it, it will carry a certain patina of truth, simply because it has been said. The reality of existence (of a thought) validates the truth of that thought."  So, "if you teach children they are descended fro animals, they will act like animals," may be manifestly untrue and not logical, but if you say it, the very fact that the thought exists means it is a thought, a reality of sorts.

 What you hear, as public thought comes, typically, from those who have the time, the energy, the anger to take the actions necessary to be heard. Or, you hear from those people who can afford to pay others to speak for them.

So, we have the best Congress money can buy.
And we have, if not mob rule, then wacko rule.

Political parties try to "energize" their base.

What Mad Dog is seeing, as he tries to mobilize the voices of light against the forces of darkness, is it is hard going.  People with jobs, lives, families, careers, talents for music and drama and high tech, tend to be busy with those things.

One thing you could say for the 60's was that people with voices used those voices to batter the "Silent Majority" and to make the things the Silent Majority was said to believe look ridiculous: America is fighting for freedom in Vietnam; premarital sex is a sin against God; my country right or wrong; opposing your government's official policies is unpatriotic; Blacks ought to know their place and stop causing trouble.  Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, a whole group of performers raised their voices and devoted their time to change the narrative in America.

But now, people who really have nothing better to do than to sit at home and watch Fox News, eat Nachos, tend to be the ones who are angry enough to go to rallies and conventions and to steer the big boat of state in a direction they want to see. They are the Tea Party people, the gun owning, NASCAR loving, resentful, Bible thumping, creationist crowd. And they make sure they are heard.

The American Civil Liberties Union never does so well in contributions as it does when some Rush Limbaugh, Rick Perry bombast gets aired.  The righteous, raucous right is the best fund raiser the left has got. But the problem is, the right shapes the narrative in this country; the left just donates money.

Mad Dog is finding that, on the Seacoast, people who might be able to help, with some very stellar exceptions, simply find other things to do. Well meaning, thoughtful liberals have simply dropped out.  They are at the beach, doing gigs at cafes, doing the New York Times crossword puzzles, reading novels, sailing, eating dinner out. They are, in short, enjoying the things which enrich life.  But where is their call to service? 

Are they asking what they can do for their country?

And the Right shall inherit the earth.

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