The United States of America: 1776-2017?

"We the people of the United States…." How familiar the opening words of the Constitution. But it was all a dream. This is not a love letter; it is an obituary. Maybe it's premature, but, as in the case of famous people, it's on file awaiting the coroner's certification of the official time of death.

The United States of America experienced a difficult birth in 1776, when the Declaration of Independence heralded the arrival of a sickly child. It was conceived in myth and survived against long odds, but it never thrived or grew to maturity. It was always a loner—never a "we," not even in its rebellious years against its British parents when a third of its colonial citizens remained loyalists and another third stood neutral. The cause of rebellion was never noble—colonists paid far lower taxes than their British cousins and, though they were sometimes punished, they were never held to standards not expected of their peers. Tom Jefferson knew he was writing propaganda, so (with help from his peers, the well-heeled), he laid it on thickly and eloquently.

So did Madison. "We the people" did not mean the masses—whom Madison and most of his fellow Founders held in fearful contempt—nor did he mean the distaff side of anyone's family. He certainly did not mean Indians, slaves, free people of color, or unsavory non-English immigrants like the Irish. Small wonder that just 73 years after Madison's words were ratified, the republic was rent asunder by civil war, a bloody reminder that many wished the nation to remain the fiefdom of white men of means and the lackeys they tricked into maintaining their estates. For a short time, it looked as if elites might relinquish their robes, but the collapse of Reconstruction, the advent of Social Darwinism, triumph in the labor wars, periodic "red" scares, Jim Crow, domestic ideology, and time-tested applications of divide-and-conquer patched the holes and righted the throne. The Great White Fist ruled supreme.

There have been moments in which the crown tottered—Lincoln, New Deal, the temporary victory over fascism, civil rights, and liberation movements—but in the end, the Fist has always leveled its golden hammer. Now the Fist is shaky and the United States has entered its sclerotic old age. What will the history's death certificate list as the cause of death?

But America is a mighty nation, you protest. If that's the case, why must it become great "again," as its Madman in Chief insists? Sorry, but great nations do not arm lunatics and allow them to parade down public streets, or turn their backs when daily they aim guns at school children, movie attendees, shoppers, co-workers, and neighbors. Great nations do not elect gropers to lead them, don't entrust their future to pirates, or treat their women like ten-dollar whores. Great nations do not look away from the raging fires of environmental Armageddon or demonize their intellectuals. They do not sacrifice science and reason upon altars of blind faith or superstition, surrender the greater good to the greed of Croesus, or hold profits in higher regard than prophets. They do not allow paramilitary cops to slaughter its citizenry.  A great nation does not see the world in monochromatic white.

Matters such as these are deemed "ideological" or "political" only in lands where Jeremiah wails in the Wilderness to the deaf while demagogues, monsters, and madmen shake their fists from ahigh and laugh. They do not notice the Reaper behind the curtain. 

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