Monday, September 14, 2009

What Happened September 12?

I don’t know how many people showed up for the protest in Washington, DC. By the “unofficial” report of the DC Park Police, there were more people than attended Obama’s inauguration rally- perhaps 1.2 million, perhaps as much as 2 million during the course of the day. They were a pretty good cross section of the population, and it was obvious from the lack of coordinated signs and T-shirts that it was not organized by any single political party, group or any of the usual demonstrators. There were traffic jams on all the diagonal avenues. The crowd spread over a mile deep from the Capital. This group was the largest, but the scene was repeated in smaller gatherings throughout the country.

I believe this is a historical event, and many others agree. Never in the history of this nation has so many people peacefully gathered to protest an elected government and its policies.

But what was the driving issue? Was it simply a Republicans vs Democrats thing? Was it over the health care reform that the administration is pushing? Cap & Trade? The $4 trillion deficit? The depression? The FDA Diversity Czar?

You can see from the pictures that there is no single issue, but there is a central theme. That theme is: the people are disgusted with big government. They want their lives back. They want both Republicans and Democrats to stop piling on debt and to untangle the morass of Federal regulations and restrictions on every facet of American life. They want the statists who now control Congress to back away from socialism and restore the incentives a healthy American Capitalist society needs to thrive. They see public health care and Cap & Trade and the ever-growing list of “czars” running things today as the camel’s nose under the tent.

Yes, any reasonable observers would classify these people as “conservative” within the broad sense of that word. Most of them never attended a political protest before. They were forthright, but non-violent, civil, but good citizens. They were grandmothers. teenagers, midddle-earth types. None of the “radicals” were visible, if they were there at all. For that matter neither were the mass media. The mass media hid this event behind the MTV awards. Contrast that reportage with the Obama inauguration, if you will. A free mass conservative gathering of historical proportions does not fir the socialist media narrative.

Did you see the mounds of candy-wrappers, plastic bottles, paper and debris the inaugural crowd left behind? Last Saturday, people cleaned up after themselves. The trash cans were overflowing, but the streets were not. Think about that, dear readers. What kind of demonstrators clean up after themselves?

But none of that makes this historic.

Underlying all the placards and the slogans is a deep malaise about the course of American government. The hecklers may cry, “You are hypocrites - where were you 8 years ago when George W. Bush was building deficits and trampling Constitutional limits?” They are right of course. None of my friends chartered bus rides to DC to protest unsanctioned wiretaps or the corrupt lobbyists, politicians on the take or favoritism for certain big businesses. But these things were festering beneath the surface. Some of us voted for “Change” and got a hit with a lurch to the left. Some of us got disillusioned and dropped out of the fray. A lot of us muddled through our bad choices and eventually found our way to DC last Saturday. Hecklers: the answer is, we were disgusted 8 years ago, we are doubly disgusted now, and we won’t take it anymore!

Government is like religion. It is part logos and part mythos. You need some faith to go along with a particular form of government, but you should go with your eyes open and your mind engaged. Our form is the American democratic republic, ethical capitalism, individual liberty tempered by individual responsibility, civility and self improvement. If people thrive, people subscribe, people believe, and the huge flow of faith charges up some cosmic storage battery. That’s the battery that powers unselfish, and some selfish, acts of patriotism, that inspires anthems, that moves the world to look up and take notice. The same with religions. It is no coincidence that patriotism and religion are frequently wrapped up in each other. They use the same kind of battery power.

That’s as far as religion has to go. People can, and should, exercise religion as an act of faith, of personal comfort, and practice it they way one practices being cheerful. A government has to pass a stricter test. The government must succeed in achieving the aims of the people. Those aims, in America, include a decent chance for prosperity, freedom to pursue one’s chosen profession and dream, basic protection from criminal elements, an open forum for all kinds of debate and ideas, and a reasonably level playing field for all the above. It does not include ersatz royalty with rank and privilege, unjust taxation, a dim and darkening financial future, nanny-state idleness, narrowed choices, and the consequent diminished sense of pride in ourselves.

Failed states are killers. Impoverishment, starvation, fear, and the hierarchy of intimidation are the fruits of failure. Look at Nigeria, Haiti, Liberia, or almost any country in the Horn of Africa, for examples of failure. It isn’t just the nasty people who run the country that are at fault. Saint Peter himself couldn’t run that mess. Their system of government sponsors corruption. It does not support a middle class, provide fair courts, allow a robust financial system, or the education necessary for people to make wise choices when, and if, they vote. It is very easy to lose these things even in a healthy society. They are the very things a statist will weaken to gain power. Even a very poor state can support a few very wealthy individuals at the top, you see.

When a state begins to fail. people feel it in their bones. The great cosmic battery begins to run down. It takes a while, but eventually people who have been keeping the faith, but with their eyes open and their brains engaged, get together. They did last Saturday, in Washington DC. It was just the beginning.

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