JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: THE MANY CONTRADICTIONS THAT ARE PART OF AMERICAN SOCIETY – SOMETHING NOT ALWAYS APPRECIATED BY OUTSIDE OBSERVERS AND NOT ALWAYS APPRECIATED BY AMERICANS THEMSELVES   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY DAVID R. HOFFMAN IN PRAVDA

 

“I love free speech; I hate free speech”

 

A good piece on the conflicts that are part of the social fabric of America.

I must say, as someone who has both studied America and lived there a large fraction of my life, American society is just loaded with such dichotomies and contradictions.

The interesting and not-at-all mainline American historian, Page Smith, who wrote a massive multi-volume history of the United States he called “a people’s history,” often described America as “schizophrenic.” While his use of the psychiatric term was not technically correct, it nevertheless fit a popular usage, and in that sense, it is very accurate. “I love free speech; I hate free speech,” indeed.

Americans like to regard themselves as uniquely free, but that is, and never was, true. There’s almost an advertising image stamped into the consciousness of most Americans about the unique quality of freedom they enjoy, but it is just that, an image, a kind of sustaining illusion, resembling similar illusions fiercely embraced by many religious or highly ideological people. And it is no coincidence that some very astute observers have called America’s set of Patriotic beliefs and practices the American Civic Religion.

America has always included a powerful element favoring strict rules and elaborate bureaucracy and censorship and dislike of dissent and readiness to control. It even has had many sizable popular movements in its history which for all the world resemble fascism. The Know Nothing Party, the American Bund, the Klu Klux Klan, the private militia movement, the Aryan Churches, and on and on.

A number of American states had laws for the legal sterilization of those deemed “unfit” before Hitler had them in Germany, and tens of thousands were indeed sterilized. Henry Ford, whose social views were expressed in a book, was admired by Hitler.

The great American journalist and historian of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer, well aware of these things, said that maybe America would be the first country actually choosing to go fascist. A bit exaggerated, but an astute observation, as valid today as it was then.

Just look at the wide-spread American reverence for the military and the flag and the police, institutions and a symbol whose actual record of employment is anything but admirable. America’s local police kill well more than 1,100 citizens every year on the streets – far more than any supposed terror group – yet public sentiment to support them remains strong, and there is bitter opposition to groups protesting for reform. We’ve seen downright hatred for American football players who dared to quietly kneel during the National Anthem as a respectful form of protest, and the ugly attitude was echoed right up into the Oval office.

Again, with respect to the American tendency for inflexible rules as opposed to free and relaxed situations, just try doing anything with the folks at the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration or at the Veterans’ Administration or many other major agencies, and you’ll find out just how free-and-breezy America really is even in day-in, day-out matters. Some of the situations you’ll find yourself in will be reminiscent of the old USSR’s bureaucracy.

You know, when you take a simple mortgage on a home in America, you literally sign a stack of papers an inch thick, so complex you cannot possibly understand what it is that you are signing. The same experience is repeated in many activities in America.

As for rights, they really exist anywhere only so long as the overwhelming majority agree that they do. And that group opinion changes and fluctuates over time. You cannot write a piece of parchment that truly guarantees rights even though it claims that it does. There certainly are no absolute rights, and I think it was the early Puritan tradition which convinced early Americans there was. America’s parchment rights have been violated countless times.

And they very much continue to be violated today with everything from the Patriot Act and the NSA and Homeland Security to the total corruption of elections and voter rights by big money.

The Bill of Rights originally was unenforceable by the Supreme Court, it had no real force of law, and Jefferson threatened the secession of Virginia if the court took that role which he regarded as a violation of States’ Rights. Eventually, the Supreme Court won the right. However, the actual record of decisions by the Supreme Court includes many shameful chapters.

Indeed, the long gruesome history of the Rights of States versus the those of the Federal government in America – a subject which was the true cause of the American Civil War, and not slavery, as is often mistakenly asserted – is full of contradictions to this day.

Today, for an individual to bring a case to the Supreme Court, something which costs a very large sum of money in legal fees, is unrealistic, unless he or she is supported by some affluent organization or special interest. And the quality of decisions made still leaves much to be desired, sticking to such narrow interpretations of constitutional law as to resemble the writings of Church Scholastics from the Middle Ages. Some guarantee of everyone’s rights.

Many times, written rights were simply ignored by the American government. Habeas Corpus was suspended in the Civil War. Slavery went on and on, and nothing violates rights like slavery. Supreme Court decisions were made on aspects of slavery which violated every right defined by the Bill of Rights. After slavery was finally abolished, the South’s “Jim Crow Laws” carried right on enforcing many of the realities of slavery for another century.

The American right to vote started with about one-percent of the population being qualified – that’s about the same percent of Chinese people in the Communist Party which decides that county’s leadership. Yet those corny, school-room images of the pious Founders and their frock coats and wigs hide pretty much the same reality as China. You had to be male, white, a certain age, and have a certain net worth. The president was not elected directly, and the powerful Senate was appointed well into the Twentieth Century.

Today, most Americans can vote, but their elections are governed by big money with the two political parties both working contentedly under a heavily-organized regime of money. This effectively excludes all others from ever getting the opportunity and exposure to perhaps take the country in new directions. So, America is effectively ruled by a two-party duopoly completely beholden to the country’s plutocratic class, but “democracy” and “choice” remain the slogans and rallying cries heard everywhere.

Over the last many decades, the creation and growth of outfits like the FBI and CIA have grossly violated citizens’ rights and continue to do so. Today, the United States has 17 national security agencies. The actual work of these agencies often does not resemble the words of their charters or the legislation establishing them, but realistically there is no one to complain to, except the money-driven members of the two parties in Congress.

It’s a long and complex story, with confusion and dark corners not widely appreciated abroad. Indeed, few ordinary Americans understand it either, but that doesn’t stop them blubbering endlessly about rights, like the right to own guns, something easily disputed by the very words of the Second Amendment.

The blubbering about rights makes many Americans feel good when the realities of their situation should very much make them feel otherwise.

Gun ownership might be the most symbolic in this regard of many rights we could examine. What difference in the world has gun ownership made to the prevention of tyrannical government in America, something asserted endlessly as being necessary for a free country? None at all. Abusive laws and powerful, oppressive agencies at home and abusive imperial wars abroad go right on serving the interests of the people who really run the country, and, by all appearances, it’s only going to become worse.

Just one of a great many examples suffices. In what kind of society can a man, who wasn’t even initially elected and without a declaration of war as stipulated in the Constitution, lead a nation into a long and terrible war that would literally slaughter several million abroad, using ordinary citizens’ tax dollars and the bodies of conscripted young men to do it? Ironically, all those young men were told they were doing so to defend freedom, and, to this day, many of them still believe it.

Further on the topic of contradictions in America, readers may enjoy:

https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/john-chuckman-essay-the-illusion-of-rights/

https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/28/lessons-from-the-american-revolution/

https://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/reflections-on-the-origins-and-meaning-of-americas-independence-day-re-posted-from-6-years-ago-nothing-having-changed/

 

Posted June 6, 2018 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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