By John W. Whitehead
“The spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless.”—Thomas Jefferson
The day after the 2010 Elections, what some have described as a “political earthquake,” will be no different from the day before. At least not when it comes to the real problems that plague average Americans like you and me.
Sure, the Democrats will have lost some vital seats and the Republicans, powered by Tea Party activists, will have gained enough to claim a “comeback.” But the government as we have come to know it—corrupt, bloated and controlled by big-money corporations, lobbyists and special interest groups—will be largely unchanged. And “we the people”—overtaxed, overpoliced, overburdened by big government, underrepresented by those who should speak for us and blissfully ignorant of the prison walls closing in on us—will continue to trudge along a path of misery.
With the surveillance state now in place, government agents will continue to track our whereabouts, whether it be through our computers, cell phones, GPS systems or mobile scanners sent to patrol cities and neighborhoods. Americans will still find it hard to pay their mortgages and get jobs. Travelers will continue to be subjected to a bureaucratic nightmare in airports—body scanners, aggressive patdowns, random searches and inhuman regulations—simply because they want to fly from Point A to Point B. The office of the president will continue to expand far beyond the borders of the Constitution, aided by an inept Congress that fails to provide oversight to the president and the numerous bureaucratic agencies that periodically terrorize average Americans. Aggressive war spending which has put the government on the brink of bankruptcy will continue to bleed us dry, all the while the military industrial complex continues to direct both foreign and domestic policies.
The family structure will continue to break down, deepening the already gaping spiritual void. Marriages will continue to splinter as children face a schizophrenic world lacking any true moral compass or leadership. And the schools, which no longer teach young people moral values or their freedoms, will continue to impose a draconian uniformity, conditioning American children to live in an Orwellian state.
With roughly 25 lobbyists per Congressman, corporate greed will continue to call the shots in the nation’s capital, all the while our elected representatives will grow richer and the people poorer. And elections will continue to be driven by war chests and corporate benefactors rather than once-touted values such as honesty, integrity and public service. Just consider: $4 billion were spent on the elections this year, yet not a dime of that money will actually help the average American in their day-to-day struggles to just get by.
In other words, next week won’t be any different from last week or the week before, because the sad truth is that nothing taking place on Election Day will limit the emerging police state or alleviate the suffering of the American people.
Yet it was not always this way. There was a time in our nation’s history when a person’s vote counted for something more than merely the illusion of participation. There was a time when the people’s referendum at the ballot boxes brought about a change in the way government did business. That is no longer the case.
Most Americans today work 40 or more hours a week, five or more days a week. They juggle family, work and finances. Distracted by an entertainment culture, lulled into a false sense of well-being by a consumer culture, and ignorant about their rights and the workings of their government, they are ill equipped to understand, let alone confront, the political and social issues that are ripping at the fabric of the republic. Even those who are marginally engaged in politics or energized by zealous talking heads on TV are buoyed by a false optimism (one manufactured by the profit-driven corporate media) about their ability to impact the political scene. For these few, politics has become their religion, and they’re hoping for a messiah to wash away their troubles and transform the nation. And that’s the greatest deception of all, because there is no political savior and simply going to the polls will change nothing about the way Washington does business.
The powers-that-be want to divide us. They want us yelling at one another over politics so that we never unite against them. They want to stir Americans up enough so that we think that what happens on Election Day will change things. They want us to get out and vote, and proudly wear our “I Voted” stickers and urge others to do the same. And then they want us to go home and rest easy, believing that we’ve done our part and that it’s now up to them to do their part. And that’s where it all falls apart, because voting is the very least that we are called to do as citizens of this republic. In fact, voting is merely one small stop along the way.
So what’s the answer? There are countless tomes written on the nature of government and the duties of citizenship. And while we are certainly guilty of abject civic illiteracy, that’s not really the root of our problem. The problem, as I see it, is that we have allowed ourselves to be enchained by bureaucracy, corpocracy, consumerism and militarism for so long that we have forgotten what it is to be free.
Great leaders throughout history have understood that freedom is not based on which party is in power or what laws are enacted but on a universal understanding that what we call freedom—true freedom—is a spiritual state that is innate. No truly free people would allow themselves to be branded and tracked like cattle or probed by strangers or sold to the highest bidder. Yet to be able to stand up for your freedoms and object when they are being threatened or violated, you first have to understand what they are and where they come from, keeping in mind that everything being done by the government today is aimed at one thing: to disconnect us from our spiritual roots—our freedom roots.
And what are our freedom roots? Thomas Jefferson sets them forth with eloquence in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Great dissenters like Martin Luther King Jr. took to the streets and conducted civil disobedience against a government that wouldn’t listen. He knew that it takes more than voting to change the way government works. As King said, “We must see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”
Are you willing to be a gadfly? Or are you going to continue to play their game and passively sit on the sidelines and wait for the next so-called “political earthquake” to shake things up?
Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His book The Change Manifesto (Sourcebooks) is now available in bookstores and online. He can be contacted at email@example.com. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org
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