Bill Kaufman describes the problem:
We are, today, subjects of an empire, not citizens of a republic. The idea of “citizenship” has been diluted from one of membership in an organic body in which each person matters, takes part in civic affairs, to the current condition, in which you are a cog in a machine, just another brick in the wall. The role of an American citizen, as viewed by our rulers in Washington, D.C., is to pay your taxes, cast a meaningless vote every four years, and shut the hell up. You have almost—almost—no say in U.S. foreign policy. As Dick Cheney once replied when told that the vast majority of Americans wanted our soldiers home from Iraq: “So?”
And, being the brave soul that he is, Kaufman outlines a response to the problem. Anything we can do to decentralize, to devolve, to reclaim local control of our lives — since we all live locally, not globally — is a step in the right direction. The good news Kaufman seeks to share is that those of us who grasp what the great problem of our time is and have an idea about how to tackle it are no longer alone. There are a number of movements afoot coming from different directions but heading toward a similar goal:
Wendell Berry, one of our age’s sages, has noted that hopeful signs are sprouting everywhere: life-giving, life-affirming movements… everything from community-supported agriculture to homeschooling to the New Urbanism to the return of the natives that is going on all over this homesick land. People are rediscovering—reclaiming—citizenship. Berry calls this a “redemptive” movement, though he acknowledges that “in terms of standing and influence [it] is hardly a side at all. It doesn’t have a significant political presence. It is virtually unrepresented in our state and federal governments. Most of its concerns are not on the agenda of either major party.”
As I’ve noted previously, the breakup of the DC Empire is inevitable. It has already begun in the minds of its subjects. As the administration of Barack Obama has made clear to all who will see, it makes no difference which organized gang is in power. The Empire will go on dropping bombs on innocent civilians in the name of spreading democracy, subsidizing billionaires in the name of prosperity for all, and illegally spying on us in the name of protecting our liberty.
As the man said, “Every day the bucket goes down to the well. One day the bottom will drop out.”