What I Mean When I Say “Greatness”
we’re living The Grapes of Wrath and have to decide which member of the Joad family we’ll be
much of the following is satire
I was at Brooklyn College for a BFA and a professor named Christopher Barnes taught a required course in Western Civ that most students endured begrudgingly, but I adored. He eventually talked me out of it (no point if you’re not going for a doctorate) so I minored in Classics instead. I’m no prodigy or great intellectual, but I’m an enthusiastic and disciplined student when I’m passionate about something. His classes were harder than my others and overall my GPA took a hit. Not a huge hit, but really, I didn’t care. What I learned from Chris is worth more to me now than my diploma.
I’ve been thinking of that lately because of the current election. The ancient Greeks gave us Democracy. Framing its origins around what’s going on in our country right now has given me regular heart palpitations. Like so many others I have kicked and screamed, expressed outrage, and made almost frenzied pleas for sanity.
After how the Democratic National Convention went down I’ve accepted that maybe it’s our time. Maybe this is as far as The United States can take The Great Experiment. I’m still proud of all we accomplished in a few hundred years, still hopeful we will beat the odds and come together. All I can do is vote and keep a light heart if things fall apart.
I am guilty of hyperbole. Often in fact, but in this case I’m not joking. For the first time in my lifetime a sizeable portion of the population is polarized into one extreme group or another. I recognize that situation from the history of all countries. Extremes come. A single extreme is damaging, like a strong wind ripping wet laundry from a clothesline. Multiple extremes though, those violent forces in opposing directions, they’re what rip the fabric of a society apart.
Here’s where things are “perfect storm” enough to make the seeming invulnerability of a government crumble. Until a few weeks ago the rest of that statement was “and on the other side, Bernie.” When it was about 2 diametrically opposed leaders and their followers we were still only dealing with a strong wind. This shit was real, most def, but we were as supple and light as a white oxford. Even if we’d been pulled from the laundry line and blown halfway down the block, our dirty shirt could be cleaned and returned to use.
That’s not the situation anymore. We have a second violent and opposing force, a far left movement that no longer needs the leader who started it to continue on the path it has chosen for itself. The Greeks don’t have as good of an example of that as the Russians. The Marxists were academics, which is to say ultimately harmless nerds, but they gave birth to the Leninists (“well, crap.” said Marx). Lenin’s revolution ripped the existing government to the ground. Karl would have lost his shit if he’d been there when the Romanoffs were rounded up and shot in their own basement.
Sanders is our own tragic Marx. Jill Stein the nicest damn Lenin you could ever want. That pixie haircut and eternal smile. She’s got more charisma in her little finger than Hillary Clinton’s best pantsuit.
If you watched the Democratic National Convention last week you saw masses of people who seemed eager to die for Bernie Sanders, and then a few days later just as eager to kill him for his perceived betrayal to the cause. He implored them to vote for Clinton and was booed down like everyone else. It upset me, even if I predicted it months ago in a “I’m gonna wash my car and make it rain” sort of way.
It was worse than I imagined. The far left pushed farther than I expected. They stormed the Bastille. Their revolution is underway, unmistakably. If you watched you saw the contempt they had for everyone outside their immediate circle, Bernie included. Like Lenin’s good soldiers, although their origins are philosophical and humanitarian, the far left have consolidated into a movement of pure faith. And no one can debate someone off the ledge of faith. The more you coax, the farther out they move, until there’s nothing left for the true believer to do but take Faith’s Celebrated Leap.
We’re all responding to historical influences, convinced our ideas are revelations instead of the recycled trends history has seen too many times to care anymore. I include myself in that. Somewhere hundreds of years ago there was a privileged but cynical supporter of Cicero who shook his head after his leader’s public execution. I was the guy in a toga who pointed at Cicero’s severed hands and tongue on display in the Rostra and said, with nothing really to worry about because I was rich, “See, I told you so.”
That is to say for white people like me in this country this is all largely an intellectual exercise. If I get in any real trouble in the next several years of upheaval, Trump, vermin that he is, could be made to see me and say, “Oh, he’s one of us!”
The same is true of Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton, and Gary Johnson. As Rome collapses my observations as a white man will always be made from a safe distance. It’s highly unlikely I’ll be killed in the streets. I’d have to go looking for trouble, instead of there not being a choice in the matter like minorities in this straining Democracy.
Yes, I’m sorry. You’re right of course. We never have. I’ll need a fact-checker on this one, but as far as I know no country in modern times has existed as a pure Democracy. It’s not a sustainable system of government. Pure Democracy is a family of 3 deciding where to eat dinner. 3 people. 3 votes. Majority rules. To many this sounds like a perfect system, a fair system. Simple and honest. The screaming circus of the convention was an excellent demonstration of how imperfect Democracy is.
In the case of the family of 3 (the smallest possible Democracy) if its members really wanted to be fair to all citizens every so often the other 2 people would have to suck it up and go to McDonald’s because that’s what little Joey always wants. They hate McDonald’s, but they love Joey, so they eat their mediocre french fries and dry, humiliated hamburger for the greater good.
The James Brown of Democracy. Pericles was a political leader in Athens who helped establish one of the first extremely powerful, and completely pure, Democracies. That’s right my Third Party revolutionaries, a delicious, direct, and completely democratic government. A government where instead of electing professionals, every tax-paying citizen has the right to vote on, and put into immediate effect, the laws they determine are best for all. If last week’s DNC had been Athens, all of that screaming and protest would have resulted in a complete and near-instantaneous transformation of our government. Doesn’t that sound nice?
If the United States was a pure Democracy, The Civil Rights Movement would have never happened. The Civil War would have divided the country, literally. A pure Democracy keeps power in the hands of people who already have it. If only men can vote then only men can vote on whether women can vote. If only wealthy landowners have a say, they will continue to be the only people who ever own land. Pure Democracy is a total shit system of government, but it has the seeds for much better systems. A Federal Republic, for example (that’s what this country is and has always been, representative government). Imperfect, most certain, but the best thing anyone has come up with in a few hundred years.
The pure Athenian Democracy had a Golden Age, and then, completely collapsed. People died. Wars ravaged Athens and neighboring lands. Foreign powers moved in, took over, and remained in power for
hundreds thousands of years.
They are fragile. They have all collapsed. All of them. Ours too will collapse. Maybe that time is now. I personally think it’s premature to throw it all out the window, but maybe to you the system is so flawed and unfair and horrrible that it would be better to start over. Fuck that Crooked Hillary and Crazy Trump. I see that everywhere now. Okay then I guess, let’s rip this fucker down!
Most of us will survive no matter who comes to power. I say that because I imagine most of my audience is white. There’s always room for more white people in any political party in this country. However, if you are a minority know that if you’re willing to whitewash yourself and your concerns, all minorities are of course welcome in at least the Green Party, and to a lesser extent the Libertarians. Democrats and Republicans have always presented themselves in the same way (“Hey, I have a black friend!”) Sad that we went and peed in the punch bowl. Whatever. I think Stein can get 3% of the vote. I think a showing like that for the Green Party will be a powerful moral victory.
And Johnson, I didn’t forget about you brother. You’ll appeal to a lot more people in the Midwest (which is a little too conservative for the more hippie-hipster Green Party). I think you can get 7%. Maybe even 10%. For realz man. You can do it son! You have to want it though. Perot managed 19% and you’re twice the politician and only half as crazy. You’ll need a solid catchphrase if you want to be remembered. Have your people work on that.
With Johnson and Stein working together we can quickly nix the danger of Hillary getting elected. Big sigh of relief, amiright? Sure she’s qualified, but I don’t know about you but I am so sick of hearing about Senator this, and Secretary of State that, blah blah blah. Does this lady ever get tired of talking about herself? She’s not perfect. Oh boy, far from it. Now that I think about it, she’s a monster really. What kind of an elected official makes mistakes? Mistakes!? What kind of person? Not my president. Oh, I’m voting for her boringly experienced and intelligent self, but she’s not going to be president.
Ugh, am I right? Meatloaf again?! Fine. President Trump. Come on in. Better to just jump and not wade out. It’s not so bad once you get in over your head. A little heart-stoppingly cold, and there are sharks I hear, but it’s not so bad. It won’t be that bad. Really. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid.
The first Coup will be mostly a political gesture. It’ll fail, so relax. There’s really no way to prove that’s what lead to the inevitable ethnic cleansing. Sorry American Muslims. It was really important that we made our statement. I know you’ve been through a lot, but I think if you dig deep you’ll recognize that for too long in this country college-educated, middle class whites have been silenced.
“Can someone please get a her a microphone?”
“That third one on the left, next to Lenny.”
“Oh sorry Anthony, lower your rifle a bit so we can see the girl’s face. She has something to say.”
Now that second Coup. Man, no one will see that coming. I’m stoked already. Take that you fuckers! As a Democrat I’ll be super excited for the exciting time we will live in then. Won’t it be exciting? When us white people take our country back from the other white people? Injustice will never be tolerated! Not in my dojo. For a few years, things will be like heaven. Before the counter strike. And the articles of Confederation for the Southern and some Western States.
“Do you want to write something new?”
“I don’t know. How old is that one?”
“Pretty old sir. 1861.”
“Read me a few lines. Be great if we didn’t have to write a new one. To be honest, I’m not all that literate.”
“We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.”
“Yeah yeah, that’s fine. Use it. What? Yes, of course you can have slaves again. What? (aside) What’s he screaming now?”
“He’s worried about security sir.”
“I don’t have time for this. Give the man an AR-15…I’m sorry, what? Fine. Give him a dozen AR-15s. If you can’t keep your slaves in line sir, maybe you shouldn’t have so many.”
It won’t be bad everywhere. As soon as the New Confederacy breaks away another small independent nation will form whose first leader will be Jill Stein.
Green Nation will be a wonderful place to live. Green Nation will have an environmentally sustainable economy and have the lowest carbon footprint of any country since the Industrial Revolution. There will be no war, no military, no wealth-based class system (because, duh, no minorities). Your neighbor will always be willing to lend a hand, to help you preserve things from your organic garden for the coming winter months. Which is important. Green Nation will occupy what is currently New England, minus parts of Massachusetts and Maine, and all of Connecticut. Sounds pretty sweet. Especially if you already live here. I can just stay where I am, do nothing, and enjoy all the glorious produce and interesting facial hair that is sure to come.
Don’t worry. I’ll get out before the pogroms and encampments. Red and Blue Nations will fight each other for a while. That won’t be Green’s problem. Because of its benevolent perfection, Green Nation will fall to the other national upstarts.
You know Libertarians, for a party whose motto is “Maximum Freedom, Minimum Government” you guys have got your shit together! Seriously folks, these kids love their guns almost as much as they hate governments interfering in their business. Naturally this sentiment won’t apply to their newly formed government, well, once it’s formed.
There’s a reason armed “revolutionaries” like Ammon Bundy takeover things like nature preserves. They’re not going to attack the Red or Blue Nations. Are you stupid? After they’ve militarized and want more land and power (well, let’s be fair, they really need that land and power) they’re going to pick off the peace-loving Greens with very little resistance. Damnit! There goes my 2 favorite summer homes.
Lives lost will be kept to a minimum though. That’s good. They won’t have a lot of manufacturing so they’ll have to ration their arsenals and bullets. They really need the Green People to continue to run the cooperative farms in Green Nation, and to establish them in Gold Nation after New England is annexed. So, yeah, very few civilian casualties. I think with the right negotiator they could work out a Britain-Scotland type deal with Gold Nation, even their own Green flag maybe (all natural hemp of course).
The crappy pieces of land (I don’t know where exactly, the parts of the states you’d imagine a generous Native American Reservation would be) will be abandoned and the minorities that don’t die or aren’t enslaved or in camps will form a ragtag collective that will watch without horror as the other 4 factions duke it out. I’ll be living there, if they’ll have me. Although I will offer to have myself registered (because, I am after all a member of the most dangerous race), they will politely demure. They will, however, pull their children aside and cross the street when they see me coming. Which is fine. I can live with that. Because at least I’ll be free to come and go as I please.
we’re living The Grapes of Wrath and have to decide which member of the Joad family we’ll be
As long as healthcare continues to be a business, people will never be as important as the bottom line
a Sanders Presidency would require more than the zealots to happen