Page Two: Reporting for Duty
Anti-government patriots poised to fix government
"I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam." – Popeye the Sailor Man
There is always a distance between perception and reality. If one leans toward the metaphysical, that statement can be rephrased as "there's always a distance between how one perceives things and how other people perceive the same things." Difficulties in matching up differing perceptions are due to the fact that they are not about just the core of what happened – the timing, sequences of events, the prominence or lack thereof of occurrences and so on – but are very much affected by each individual's self-interest and viewpoint.
This phenomenon can be seen every day, for example, with car crashes. Two cars have crashed into each other by accident. Both drivers are absolutely sure they are in the right and are just as certain the other driver is wrong. Each driver relates to the police his or her version of what happened. Even if they are largely in agreement, there will be variations in the time and sequence of events, as well as, perhaps, on other issues. The exact details of the story – what parts are emphasized, the underlying narrative logic – are controlled by the storyteller. No matter the similarities, the differences will be structured to vindicate the one telling the story while indicting the other.
The variations in each story are there to serve the agenda of the storyteller. This is normal. Human beings operate from a personal perspective. When relating incidents, most don't even think about it, though some try to be fairer in their telling while others are far more openly and aggressively partisan. Usually the latter group claims it has no axe to grind, when in actuality all it is doing is grinding axes.
Our history, beliefs, and experiences affect and shade how we see life.
"When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that, and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that, and besides it would still be all right."
– Leonard Cohen, "Sisters of Mercy"
Our sense of self (accompanied by ongoing re-evaluation) affects perception: This sentence must be treated as one that states the obvious. It is no surprise smoking gun or last-minute piece of evidence that would have profoundly affected consideration of the issue. This inherent self-centeredness has an impact on how we see the world. It couldn't be any other way.
Any objective appraisal of ourselves by ourselves is impossible in that it can never be "objective." Some claim that they can so isolate, dispassionately catalog, and fully comprehend their own worldviews that their subjectivity can be, if not completely eliminated as a factor, at least controlled and marginalized. This can be done to the point where they can judge incidents (even if they were involved in them) rationally and without personal bias. The same people will probably tell you that they can change lead into gold.
Human beings are inherently self-serving. The more they are personally invested in an issue or an idea, the more incapable they become of any kind of objective analysis.
"What difference does that make now? Don't be too sure I'm as crooked as I'm supposed to be. That kind of reputation might be good for business – bringing in high-priced jobs and making it easier to deal with the enemy."
– Sam Spade to Brigid O'Shaughnessy, in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon
Although we hold differing specific political beliefs from across the full American ideological spectrum, many still seem to share some current major perceptions about our government. Different groups and individuals offer numerous, often-conflicting ideas as to what is wrong and what needs to be done. (FYI, I don't agree with the following statements.) These include:
• Somehow evil people have taken control of the federal government and are now using it to wage war on the American people.
• In order to restore this country to greatness, we need to throw the bums out!
• If the American citizenry is educated about what is going on in current politics, it will come together to vote the corrupt out of office and then vote good, decent people into those offices.
• Most of the political disharmony over issues and ideas in this country is initiated and spread by corrupting and corrupt shadow forces as part of an ongoing effort to keep the American people divided.
• The malevolent political players, stridently partisan party loyalists, and hardcore but unrealistic policy wonks need to be removed from power. The country needs a smaller federal government that re-establishes the primacy of the U.S. Constitution with the government by and of that document.
The argument goes that the U.S. government governs best when it most closely sticks to the guiding ideals, stated moral principles, and the structure and responsibilities laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This government could easily be reinvented. One take on this is that bad people have taken over the government in order to ruin this country, destroy its economy, and mentally enslave its population. This development, it seems, is both fortunate and unfortunate. It's unfortunate because brigands, pirates, soulless ideologues, foreign agents, and a host of other villains are now in charge. It's fortunate because it means all we have to do to return to being the great country we once were but are no longer is drive out the bad folks.
There is no universal agreement as to exactly which group or groups have taken control. Here are some of the leading theories:
• An evil shadow government, the New World Order, determined to slaughter much if not almost all the population, with survivors ending up as slaves
• A perhaps more limited group with a horribly flawed ideology that will most certainly destroy this country rather than protect and serve. There are any number of options regarding what this dangerous ideology is. Some lefties think this is a consortium of multinational corporations that cares little for nation-states and even less for people. Others believe it is the work of crazed free-market capitalists lacking all compassion. The right thinks the problem is soulless, godless, international networks more loyal to Marx than to God.
This list is far from complete but rather just barely started; candidates include socialists, communists, animal rights activists, followers of Lyndon LaRouche, libertarians, anarchists, International Workers of the World, agents of the British royal family, the Illuminati, and so on.
• Or, if not a grand conspiracy or intentional sabotage, a combination of all sorts of miscreants running the government and ruining the country
Obviously, there are far more possibilities, but that covers a good range of the perceived enemies – from those intentionally destroying the country to those with misguided philosophies about the kind of measures, unfortunately toxic, that this country needs to right itself to those who believe there are just too many crooks in power.
"Pancho needs your prayers it's true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do,
Now he's growing old"
– Townes Van Zandt, "Pancho and Lefty"
In the ideologically across-the-board, far-ranging litany of the failures of the government, the most commonly accepted assertion is that these problems result not just from the failures of men but from the fact that the politicians in power are deliberately doing harm to the country and its citizens. These are not principled, well-intentioned patriots with often very different ideas as to what this country needs and how it needs to go about it who might do better if they all worked together. Instead, it is a large congregation of evildoers – whether ideological puppets, servants of master overseers, or just thieves and criminals.
The critics of this failed government – whether conspiracy hobbyists, reactionaries, hard-right-wingers, socialists, true patriots, hardcore liberals, libertarians, and/or anarchists – feel the problem is corrupt people and inefficiently administered government. They know that they would do both a better and more honest job.
They make it clear that the issue is not a series of complex problems that are incredibly difficult to solve. It seems that most members of the anti-government community have no doubt that they themselves are good, moral, honest, genuine patriots operating from only the noblest ambitions. They know that what our government needs in order for it to work is for exactly such people as themselves to get elected.
And they are ready to serve.