The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. – Thomas Jefferson
The quote which forms today’s epigram is probably a familiar one, but few people are familiar with the larger paragraph in which it is embedded. Jefferson was referring to Shay’s Rebellion (arguably the single strongest motivator which caused the weak central government of the Articles of Confederation to be replaced by the strong one established by the US Constitution) when he wrote:
God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion…If [the people] remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?
Every November 5th I call for a rededication of the holiday from one in which rebels are burned in effigy to one in which tyrants are burned in effigy instead; in most of those essays I have quoted what I wrote the first time, words which echo Jefferson’s sentiments expressed above:
Governments need to be reminded (at least annually if not constantly) that they only hold power by the sufferance of all the people, not merely the majority, and that the overthrow of any government by a disgruntled minority is always a possibility. I would like to see most if not all politicians and their minions paying for their power and privilege by being forced to live in a constant state of nervous anxiety; maybe then fewer would choose that path and more would concern themselves with keeping all the citizenry happy rather than merely pleasing barely enough of the population to keep themselves in office.
Every time a cop murders some unarmed person, pig apologists sonorously remind us how dangerous police work is (which it isn’t, by the by), and how tewwified the poor widdle coppies are, boo hoo hoo. To which I reply: They aren’t nearly terrified enough. I want them to be so fucking terrified that they can’t sleep at night, so utterly frightened that they don’t dare leave their fucking stations. I want them so scared they piss themselves on a daily basis and quit long before they can develop the kind of swagger that lets them go around beating, robbing, raping and murdering without fear of repercussions. I want them to have nightmares of surveillance cameras recording their every move, and I want televised trials of bad cops every fucking day to serve the same function as a coyote’s hide nailed to a fence post by a rancher. Tyrants and their thug-enforcers alike deserve to be burned in effigy, to be cursed and spat upon every time they venture into public, to be (figuratively) crucified for the slightest abuse of power. We make government positions attractive to sociopaths by heaping accolades and privileges upon them; instead, those positions need to be made so repellent that nobody will stay in them for very long. The price of power needs to be very high indeed to prevent exactly what the United States has turned into: a fascist police state whose rulers can do anything they like to the ruled without any consequences at all.
It’s much, much too late for this to happen in the US; no decaying empire in the history of the world has ever been revived once it got to the level of corruption this country reached a generation ago, and things have grown much worse since then. Two years ago I wrote:
…old, decaying things must be cleared away – sometimes forcibly – in order to make way for new, younger and often better things. Old people must pass on to make room for new children; dilapidated buildings must be demolished to pave the way for new construction. And old, moribund governments which serve only the entrenched and wealthy must be removed if we are to build new ones which better serve all of the people and protect minorities from oppression by both majorities and other, more privileged minorities…
Like it or not, this is the future Americans face; our rulers have made peaceful change impossible, therefore violent change has become inevitable. The system will be burned to the ground, whether we want it to or not; I don’t really want to see it, but if I live to be as old as Maman that will be a forlorn hope, as I don’t actually believe the system can survive another 40 years the way things are going. The fire is coming, but as The Onion satirically reminds us, that is not a bad thing:
…a study…found that regular, controlled Washington, D.C. wildfires are crucial to the restoration of a healthy political environment. “Periodic blazes that destroy sections of the Beltway region are a natural part of the political cycle and play a key role in maintaining democratic balance,” read the study in part, which explained that occasional wildfires of mild to moderate intensity are the most important and effective mechanism for clearing out old federal agencies so that new ones can take their place and flourish. “Although such fires are often considered a hazard, without them government would quickly become dense, overrun, and impenetrable, stifling political diversity and inhibiting the germination of new ideas”…The study concluded that attempts to suppress the wildfires would likely only lead to the occurrence of far more powerful blazes in the future capable of causing significant, permanent damage to the government’s branches.
In reality, the entrenched establishment has prevented those moderate fires; the big one which will cause permanent damage is coming. We can only hope that the ashes left behind are fertile soil for something better, leaner and healthier.