Dead children and monied politicians.

18 Apr
April 18, 2013

What is left to say?

A sane man’s contempt for the United States Senate must now be certain and complete. Given the inertia on even the most modest legislative response to the mass murder of schoolchildren, those still credulous enough to believe that our governance is representative of popular will are either Barnum-sized suckers, or worse, tacit participants in tragedies soon to come. An entrenched collection of careerist incumbents, chosen and retained through their singular ability to gather cash from money troughs over six-year intervals — and the unrestrained ability of capital to keep those troughs constantly full — none of this is worthy of any intelligent citizen’s respect or allegiance.

Never mind that the higher house of our bicameral farce is one in which 40 percent of the American population choses 60 percent of the representation; that millions of New Yorkers or Texans, say, are represented and served to the same degree as thousands of Montanans. And never mind that the lower house has now been gerrymandered to a point where a majority of American votes are guaranteed to achieve a minority of the representation — ignore, for the sake of argument, the ridiculous and antiquated structural impediments to popular will ever achieving a popular outcome. Don’t worry that mess. Just focus on the fucking money.

Our elections — and therefore our governance — have been purchased. Instead of publicly funded elections, instead of level playing fields, instead of processes in which the power of actual ideas prevails over the size of the bankroll, we have given our democratic birthright over to capital itself. A gun manufacturer’s opinion can be thousands of times louder than the voice of any grieving Connecticut parent. And the damage that  might come to political careers from individual Americans who wish to have gun laws require as much responsibility of gun owners as, say, motor vehicle laws? It pales when compared  to the damage that can come to political careers from a lobbying group backed to hilt by those who will profit directly from the fear and violence in our culture.

Measured against profit and political security, dead children mean nothing. Common sense is easily dispatched. Truth itself is expendable in any circumstance. Only cash still has meaning to those who claim to represent us.  And the cash will always be there, more with every election cycle. Unsatisfied with the profits that can be achieved within the context of actual representative government, capital has instead succeeded in buying the remnants of democracy at wholesale prices, so that profit can always be maximized and any other societal need or priority can be ignored.

That corporations are people was not the great effrontery of the U.S. Supreme Court’s evisceration of democratic principle. No, for all of its ugly tenor, that statement has long been true under the law; corporations have long existed as a concept by which business interests could have the legal standing of individuals.  Corporations-are-people got the righteous ink, but the venal sin at the heart of Citizens United  lies in the appalling equivocation that declares money to be speech.

One man, one vote? And may the best ideas prevail in an open and discerning marketplace of ideas? Please. When career politicians are obliged to contemplate the cash available for dishonorable votes, or the cash that will be delivered to opponents in the wake of honorable ones, how can any actual idea matter? Every day, there is less of this republic to respect, but in the United States Senate, there is little to nothing that remains. True, popular sentiment can’t be as easily undone in a national contest  of wide scope in which both parties are equally monied and mobilized, but it isn’t the American presidency that’s broken. No, it’s the legislative branch; cash money has wrecked Congress, and in doing that much, it has paralyzed American governance beyond all practical hope.

Only fools play a rigged game forever, and governments that elevate money and firearms over human life, that treat its people and their will with such indifference — such governments eventually lose not only honor, but credibility. People lose the reason to believe.  Eventually, a deep and abiding apathy prevails. Either that, or someone picks up a brick.

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  1. Kieran says:

    True, there are comedians that cuss a lot, but you got
    to earn that right before you do that. Unfortunately Nora Ephron recently passed away,
    but she left us with some of our most endearing romantic comedies of all time — from “When Harry Met Sally” to “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve got Mail. These surgeries are a matter of personal preference, peer pressure from fellow entertainers and the need to maintain an unrealistic image that is associated with them.

    Reply
  2. Matt Lancaster says:

    Hi David,

    My apologies if some of the points I’d like to explore are already made in the comments, I didn’t read all of them. I did do some searching, and it seems to be unique.

    Personally, I agree with the sentiment of the article after a fashion: the subversion of representative will to plutocracy and monied interest is beyond reproach. We’ve not only lost the ability to have a functioning democracy, we’ve also lost the ability to have a functioning republic (I think the latter is a preferable state of affairs, due to a strong mistrust of populism and the tyranny of the majority). Perhaps I have a bit of Platonic idealism, in that I wish our representation could contain some people of actual intellectual character (or at least enterprise, a few artists, engineers, scientists, professors), instead of a gray mass of not-so-bright law school graduates, but I digress.

    I’d like to ask your opinion on a few issues:

    1) What effect might an assault weapons ban actually have?

    Since our crime statistics show that <1% of gun crime is actually committed with rifles that have 'military style features', why do we choose to focus on this issue so much? One of the questions I don't see asked much is this: what effect will making millions of law abiding citizens into felons by banning their possessions have?

    2) How might we create a situation where it's tougher for felons to get the kinds of weapons (usually small handguns… possibly from an A country) that cause so much of the devastation in this country?

    I'm really not sure there's a good answer to this one. Or, more to the point, I haven't seen one.

    3) More a point, really.

    At the last minute, someone inserted a provision into the background check legislation that more or less invalidated the safe transport provisions. (If I take a gun from Indiana to Maine, as long as it's legal at both the beginning and end points, then I can't be thrown in jail somewhere in between.) The change basically made it so that if I transported an M1 Garand (which has an 8 round magazine) and was pulled over in NY state, I could be charged with a felony. This seems like a rather ludicrous provision to add to a bill that, otherwise, made SO MUCH GOD DAMNED SENSE. I really wish our legislative process hadn't become so counter-productive. If we had a functioning democracy, this would still be a big issue.

    4) High capacity magazines

    This is one where I feel almost like point 1, though much more gun crime is actually committed using 'high capacity' (if we define that term as 8 or more) magazines, simply because they're standard on many firearms. If we ban them, what does that do to the millions of people who instantly become felons? (I think it's the height of wishful thinking that more than 3 would actually be turned in)

    5) Research!

    Personally, I'd like to see some more research done into what would be truly effective measures. That research could and should be done by the CDC and others, where there's far less bias in any direction.

    I am a gun owner, including some of the bogeymen of the supposed debate. I think there is a strong cultural divide that is growing between gun owners and non-gun owners. We shout at each other far too damn much, rather than engaging in constructive dialogue that might actually solve some problems. Both sides of the debate really need to start talking to one another, instead of at one another. Maybe then we can start the difficult process of creating citizens informed on this issue, which may, one day (when we get a representative government back) allow for some progress.

    I wanted to take a brief moment to express my appreciation for your work. I'm not given to hyperbole, so I'll keep it simple: you show a sort of intellectual honesty and actual depth that is incredibly rare nowadays. Also, I've read more than a few of your thoughts here that I disagree with, but that same honesty shines through: even when there is disagreement or a theme that makes one squirm, it makes one THINK. Put simply, you don't bullshit, and that's almost priceless in our brave new century.

    Thanks again for the art that you have a part in creating. It's created more than a few moments of genuine joy for me, as well as a lot of honest reflection.

    Reply
  3. Timo says:

    One might hope the recent IRS debacle will renew interest in campaign finance reform, more specifically Citizen’s United. The task of scrutinizing campaign interest groups that masquerade as social welfare organizations should not be a concern for the IRS, but the deregulation of finance disclosure laws has led to a flood of new applicants. That the IRS mishandled these applications was foolish, but it doesn’t change the fact that they’ve been subjected to the butterfly effect of Citizens United.

    NYTimes has been pushing this underlying issue quite candidly in recent days. I’m afraid their efforts are in vain, since much of the right are on the hunt for a new Watergate.

    Reply

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