“Your celebration is a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.” — Frederick Douglass, 1850
Recently Norman Ornstein told Salon’s Chauncy de Vega that the United States is mired in a crisis of democracy that shows parallels with Germany’s descent into Nazism during the 1930s. Ornstein is right to worry about the nation’s ongoing lethal rightward drift beyond “normal” bourgeois democracy. That is how the United States’ political life is shaping up. The signs are ominous indeed. As de Vega writes, “the coup attempt of January is only a prelude to similar events in the future, when Republicans and their allies fully intend to overthrow any election they lose, and therefore deem illegitimate.”
Liberals and progressives would do well to understand that while class is not everything – far from it, as I shall argue below – there are still no real or lasting solutions to problems that rightly agitate them under capitalism and bourgeois democracy, that is, under the de facto material dictatorship of the capitalist class and its mode of production.
The First Amendment to our Constitution declares that Congress cannot abridge the right of the people “…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Unfortunately, this vital tool of our democracy is easily circumvented by Congress simply not responding whatsoever to “petitions” by the citizenry. This government undermining of our constitutional right is producing invincibly incommunicado government officials.
Slavery lives on in U.S.-American life, crippling “our” supposed grand “democracy” in numerous ways. The massive wealth, income, and health gaps between Black and white Americans and the related persistent segregation and mass arrest and incarceration of Black Americans cannot be properly understood without reference to the two and a half centuries in which Black Americans were enslaved.
[By the latter part of May, 1970, feelings about the war in Vietnam had become almost unbearably intense. In Boston, about a hundred of us decided to sit down at the Boston Army Base and block the road used by buses carrying draftees off to military duty. We were not so daft that we thought we were stopping the flow of soldiers to Vietnam; it was a symbolic act, a statement, a piece of guerrilla the after. We were all arrested and charged, in the quaint language of an old statute, with “sauntering and loitering” in such a way as to obstruct traffic.
If we, the people, wrote a constitution now, what would go in it? Equal rights for women, men, non-binary, and undefined? Caps on wealth tied to poverty levels? Rights of nature? Reparations for past crimes, wrongs, and thefts? Limits on military spending? A free and open Internet? Abolition of mass incarceration, or the entire prison system; replaced with restorative and community justice? Free healthcare for all? Living wages or universal basic income? Would we keep corporate personhood or the electoral college?
Originally published Jan. 25, 2020
RT America on Jan 25, 2020
On the show this week Chris Hedges discusses the importance of historian, Howard Zinn, for a fuller understanding of American history, with author and journalist, Ray Suarez.