The American Heathen Goes to Washington Pt. 4
(The following post is the final part of a multi-part series on RJ Evans’ visit to Washington, DC as part of the Internet Radio Fairness Coalition efforts to lobby for the Internet Radio Fairness Act. The bill will be re-introduced in this year’s 113th Congress.)
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” - Thomas Jefferson
The Borg Collective?
The huge monoliths of marble that stand heavy upon the ground of our nation’s capitol are works of art. Beautiful but overtly grandiose, they appear to be a powerful testimony to intimidation. I felt small and insignificant compared to the government that claims to be “…by the people and for the people.” There was an arrogance about the place that insisted on intimidation by scale and scope. It was the “King”, but not one of a biological nature. It was a thing, a monster hiding in plain sight, and the people walking the halls of its mechanisms served it at its whim. What’s more, its sheer size and complexity for performing, what should be relatively simple tasks, gave it reining command of the Rube Goldberg Machine heavyweight title. I was nothing more than a spec of dust to the machine, a potential contaminant that could easily be filtered out of the system by the paper and plastic elemental filters that walked its halls.
Walking from office to office in the halls of Congress is an opportunity. Actually getting something done is a monumental task. The layers upon layers upon layers of filters that need to be negotiated is astounding. Secretaries, Legislative assistants aside, just getting into the system is nearly an impossible task for the common contaminant. The average Joe or Sally needs some relatively deep pockets. Airfare, hotel, food notwithstanding… making calls, setting appointments, reading legislation that is written in a language understood only by those with advanced degrees in bullshit… Just a few of the hurdles that must be cleared without creasing one’s testicles or labia. In a nut shell… It ain’t cheap and it ain’t easy. If there is one thing about our government that becomes painfully obvious when you start trying to affect change, it’s the built-in level of difficulty. It’s the level of difficulty that plays neatly into the hands of lobbyists, and filters out the average citizen. The machine originally created “…by the people and for the people” has become self-aware and no longer cares about or needs us. It only cares about, and needs, powerful lobby’s. The “Borg” have arrived.
Resistance Is Futile
Lobbying Congress has become, in my estimation, the payola scandal of our era. Money and influence speak the loudest in DC, while the voice of the average American is reduced to a number in carefully worded, self-serving, putrid popularity polls. As I walked the halls of Congress from office to office, I was keenly aware that the people who walked by me probably weren’t thinking about, and didn’t really care for, the average Joe and Sally in the trenches of the American economic and politically polarized quagmire. They seemed to be so disconnected from the reality of the lies of the American dream. Men and women dressed in high quality suits and dresses, with Ivy league educations, and political ambitions, strode by as if the only world they knew was one of privilege and birthright. The only thing that they seemed to share with their “constituents” in the real world was the toxic political divisions, conveniently glossed over by their plastic smiles, empty handshakes, and spurious cordiality. In fact, in the offices of every Republican representative I visited that day, the latest edition of TIME magazine was proudly displayed at the front of the magazine rack. The cover photograph: Marco Rubio. The headline read “The Republican Savior”. I had to laugh. I thought Jesus was the Republican Savior?
The conversations with various LA’s (Legislative Assistants) during my visit were probably the most telling of the disconnect between DC and the rest of the country. Almost all the LA’s were twenty somethings, all with Ivy League degrees from Princeton, Harvard, Yale. Their education was complete, but their passion and individualism seemed to be in extremely short supply. Empathy was nowhere to be found. I felt like I was talking to America’s version of brown-shirts, their young eyes glazed over with political party affiliation, indoctrination, and assimilation into the governmental machine’s collective. Personality appeared to be an afterthought, stunted by an ideological hegemony hot branded into the soft, tender flesh of their formerly impressionable minds. I really had the feeling I was visiting with disciples of Jim Jones in the jungles of Jonestown, Guyana and the Koolaid had already been served. What really surprised me was how indiscriminate the feeling I had actually was. No matter the political affiliation of the LA I met with, the feeling that I was engaging in a discussion with a trained puppet for party information and propaganda was present. Every instance of our particular lobbying effort seemed to only hold importance IF it had the potential to further the particular political party’s agenda. In many cases, that agenda seemed to revolve around re-election and/or maintaining some level of control. Resistance is futile.
Responsibility? What’s that?
“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Voltaire
Voltaire understood. I understand. So do many other people in America. But unfortunately, there aren’t enough of us, and the takeaway from my trip to DC doesn’t reflect any optimism in that direction. What I saw and experienced left me with the feeling that America is crumbling. Unlike many other crumbling governmental institutions of varying political and religious ideologies around the world, America is crumbling under the weight of its own people. We’ve become fat, lazy, and scared. We are ignorant and uniformed. We are reactionaries who only respond under threat, real or perceived. We never think ahead, plan ahead, or take steps to mitigate future problems. We are a Band-Aid for a profusely bleeding society. While our vital life-giving fluid gushes from our body, the Borg encourage the drain while slowly transfusing us with their wretched, cold, lifeless hydraulic fluid of numbness and carelessness. As we slowly die we are assimilated into the simple pieces and parts of the Borg’s Hive. We’re becoming a part of the collective, pawning off our responsibilities for our Democratic Republic to the highest bidder, and the lowest common denominator of political hacks. What’s really scary is the fact that we’re doing it all knowingly, willingly and without care. All we seem to want is to live the most trivial, mundane, ignorant lives, with the center of our delusion being skyfairies, single cell thinking, and tweeting endless nonsense. We’ve surrendered liberty for security, for cheap goods, and for political weasels… something that Benjamin Franklin warned us about. And when it all finally goes wrong, when we can no longer stop the hemorrhaging with a Band-Aid, we’ll kick and scream, throw fits on the floor like spoiled children, and then blame everyone and anyone but ourselves for the slow agonizing death of our nation. It’s only then that we will ask, “Responsibility? What’s that?”
E Pluribus Unum
A group of folks got together in Washington, DC for fairness. We didn’t know each other. But, we took some time to try to get to know each other. We came from different walks of life, economic backgrounds, education, political affiliations, religious beliefs and none. For two days we walked the halls of Congress to do what few get the chance to do. Big business, small business, non-business, all working together working as one. E Pluribus Unum. The very spirit of our nation. Why is it that this always seems to work? Maybe it’s because when we take responsibility, when we really try, the system works. While it’s far from perfect, it’s the best we’ve got. Letting it bleed to death in the cold, despotic, mechanical hands of the Borg while voluntarily surrendering the American spirit to the collective of partisan politics… I leave you with the words of Benjamin Franklin, prior to signing the Constitution the last day of the Constitutional Convention, September 17, 1787:
“I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men indeed as well as most sects in Religion, think themselves in possession of all truth, and that wherever others differ from them it is so far error. Steele a Protestant in a Dedication tells the Pope, that the only difference between our Churches in their opinions of the certainty of their doctrines is, the Church of Rome is infallible and the Church of England is never in the wrong. But though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their sect, few express it so naturally as a certain french lady, who in a dispute with her sister, said “I don’t know how it happens, Sister but I meet with no body but myself, that’s always in the right — Il n’y a que moi qui a toujours raison.”
In these sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another’s throats. Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us in returning to our Constituents were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavor to gain partizans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects & great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign Nations as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends, on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administred.
On the whole, Sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, would with me, on this occasion doubt a little of his own infallibility, and to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument.”