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A republic, if we can keep it

By Richard Foley

posted July 14, 2006

So what’s all this month’s flag waving, drum-beating, parading down Main Streets, and setting off fireworks all about? Founding Fathers signing the Declaration of Independence? Nice ideas. American colonists winning their Revolutionary War? Against exactly what? The British Empire, the first formal fascist corporate-dictator-state religion alliance?

I don’t know what planet you live on, but that declaration is a signed piece of paper and the War of Independence isn’t over by a long shot. In fact, the latest edition of U.S. fascism has slipped into the mainstream of the United States largely undetected.

Many flag-wavers have identified with the enemy, while a silent majority struggles with learned helplessness as the corporate-controlled media weaves its version of the crazy-making shell game. Here’s the truth, shuffle, shuffle, pick it out. No, not that one. Wrong again! As Mark Twain allegedly put it, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do read the newspaper, you are misinformed.”

Meanwhile, the major media outlets routinely ignore, ridicule, and/or browbeat the resistance.

The original American rebels may have applauded their declaration, won a few military victories, ousted the Brits, and signed on to a confederation of republican states under the Constitution, but their leadership understood full well that democracy was not a done deal.

Indeed, we descendents of the revolution have failed to exercise our responsibility to grow the Founders’ innovative form of democracy. And although the courageous among the past few generations have fought for women’s right to vote, civil rights, women’s control of their bodies, hundreds of environmental causes, fair economies, sustainable technologies, and peaceful resolutions to war (Vietnam, Gulf War, War on Drugs, invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the concept of the War on Terrorism), the majority of so-called U.S. citizens live in denial, wrapped in Old Glory, championing the status quo. Most of us are oblivious to our virtual slavery in the concentration camp of corporate conventionality.

It wasn’t like we weren’t warned about the bad guys and the location of future battlefields. The Founding Fathers cautioned us that the threat to democracy would not arrive as a fiery invasion from overseas, but that it would slither from inside our very own federal government, its powerful coils silently, bit by bit, squeezing out the citizenry’s life force.

Thomas Jefferson cautioned us that “even under the best forms [of government] those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” As early as 1821, he witnessed firsthand the corrosive nature of the threat: “Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation [of power] first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.”

James Madison agreed: “We are free today substantially, but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be an impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few.”

Future presidents substantiated the Founding Fathers’ fears. Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower identified the hidden entrenched interests in his 1961 warning: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Ike was right.

Well, here we are at Year Four of the permanent War on Terrorism; James Madison’s prediction strikes to the heart of the matter: “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

A few years ago, historian Chalmers Johnson outlined how our democratic ideals will wither away under the pressures of a state of perpetual war, increased propaganda, seriously eroded constitutional rights, and an aggressive executive branch. “America,” he concluded, “will cease to resemble the country outlined in the Constitution of 1787” unless the people commit to a “revolutionary rehabilitation of American democracy.”

As a longtime Brattleboro resident, I have participated in a number of civic-minded groups — Interfaith Council, Brattleboro Area Peace and Justice Group, Southern Vermonters for Environmental Protection and Fair Economy, Brattleboro Climate Protection, Northeast Center for Social Issues Studies (the group behind the buy-the-dams movement), Democracy School, Second Vermont Republic, New England Coalition, and the CVPS- and VELCO-sponsored Southern Loop Working Committee.

Vermonters working with hundreds of such groups do a wonderful service to our community and our state. But while we citizens are busy confronting symptoms, the underlying pathology of U.S. fascism continues to erode our efforts to create a sustainable economic future for our children and our communities.

With all due respect for those serving time as combatants overseas or as convicted felons for civil disobedience, I recognize as some of our most courageous citizens the minority who are trying to “think globally and act locally,” and the fewer still who are investigating the truth behind 9/11 and/or Vermont’s peaceful secession from the once confederated union of independent states.

When theologian David Ray Griffin, author of two scholarly books on the official 9/11 conspiracy theory, spoke last fall to standing-room audiences, Vermont’s daily newspapers did not report on the events, let alone honor those who responded to Griffin’s Christian expression of courage and moral authority with a standing ovation.

Want to bring the Declaration’s words back to life? Want to line up on the side of independence? Keep up your good work, join any number of local groups, or check out 911sharethetruth.com, 911truth.org, vtcommons.org, or vermontrepublic.org.

After the signing of the Constitution, when someone asked wise old Ben Franklin what type of government the framers had drafted, he answered with a simple challenge to future generations, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Richard Foley is a member of the Second Vermont Republic and Vermont Commons: Voices of Independence.