Thursday, December 14, 2006

Esquire: You Say You Want a Revolution

When the founders drew up the documents that created this country, they had in mind the power of the citizens to overthrow the government should it ever get out of control -- i.e., no longer reflect the best interests of its citizens. Well, that day has come and gone. And could we overthrow the government if that is what we decided to do? Not a chance.

From the new issue of Esquire:
You Say You Want a Revolution
Well, you know, it ain't gonna happen. Not here.

By Chuck Klosterman
January 2007, Volume 147, Issue 1

I do not want to overthrow the government. In case you misread that, I am going to type it again, this time more slowly: I. Do. Not. Want. To. Overthrow the government. I don't want black helicopters landing on the roof of my apartment building, and I don't want to be hunted by death squads through the jungles of Bolivia. I always pay my taxes. I think paying taxes is fun! If someone asks me if I enjoy the music of Rage Against the Machine, I usually say, "Oh, they were only okay." Whenever I see people using the metric system, I punch them in the pancreas.


Something has been occupying my mind as of late, and I can't tell if this thought is reassuring or terrifying: I've been thinking about the possibility of revolution, or—more accurately—the impossibility of revolution. I've started wondering what would have to happen before the American populace would try to overthrow its own government, and how such a coup would play itself out. My conclusions are that a) nothing could make this happen, and b) no one would know what to do if it somehow did. The country is too large, its social systems are too complex, and its people are too complacent, too reasonable, and too confused. I've decided that the U. S. government is (for lack of a better, preexisting term) "unoverthrowable." And this would probably make a man like Patrick Henry profoundly depressed, were it not for the fact that he's been dead for 207 years.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants," wrote Thomas Jefferson, and his thoughts were far from unique: Almost all of the Founding Fathers were obsessed with the potential for insurgency on U. S. soil. "Future citizens will need muskets to assassinate their oppressive viceroys," James Madison might have hypothetically remarked during the intermission of a slave auction. "In fact, this is probably the second most important freedom any of us will be able to come up with. Somebody should write this shit down." Superficially, such preemptive legislation worked perfectly: There are now roughly two hundred million guns in America, and that's only counting the NBA's Eastern Conference. We have enough privately owned firepower to instantly kill a billion grizzly bears, plus a few dozen prostitutes. But it's hard to imagine these weapons employed in any kind of popular uprising, even if a majority of American adults unilaterally agreed that such an event was necessary. Whom would they presumably shoot? Probably no one, and possibly one another.
Read the rest.

I found this to be an amusing little piece of satire, sort of. But it raises some serious issues.

I have no doubt in my mind that if the Founding Fathers could see what their vision has degenerated into that they would want the citizens of this country to retake their government. They would argue that the 2nd Amendment was written for precisely this reason.

But as Klosterman argues,
Modernity has created a cosmic difference between intellect and action, even when both are driven by the same motives; as such, the only people qualified to lead a present-day revolution would never actually do so. Contemporary leaders are not rock-throwing guys. And this is a problem, because it's the rock throwers who get things done.
Seriously, if someone started calling for a revolution, the people who should be leading it would politely decline. The ones out front would be the unemployed conspiracy theorists with the semi-automatic "hunting" rifles wearing belts of Vietnam era grenades.

So-called "men of ideas" no longer see violence as a means to a just end. I'm one of those people who would not, under any conditions except possibly immediate threat of death, fire a weapon at another human being (and maybe not even then). So I deserve the government I have been saddled with. I vote, pay my taxes, and blog my occasional disgust. I'm a good American: docile, educated, and employed.

I have too much to lose to be a part of a revolution. Who would train my clients? Who would make my student loan payments? Who would water my plants?

And that's exactly how they want it to stay.

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