I haven’t been commenting on politics lately because the depth of my ignorance is amazing. I don’t know shit about policy. And I don’t want to comment on the horse-race issues. I don’t want to talk about whether Obama’s health care speech made him look good or not. A real citizen should care more about what health care reform will do. The odd thing, though, is that I’m not informed enough to really know the answer, and most people aren’t either. Yet democracy is all partly about convincing this ignorant people to support health care reform. This sounds elitist. I used to have a deep-seated article of faith that the people were always right. Right now, I don’t have many deep-seated beliefs. They make one stagnant and dogmatic. I like having principles, but every single one of my convictions is always up for empirical analysis.
Part of the way around this is to read the right people. Believe the correct experts. This isn’t an impossible task. First, filter out the liars and the spin-masters. Then, look for people who are deeply interested in the issue. With the power of the internet, I guarantee you that this isn’t a Herculean task. If enough people listen to the right people, then democracy works out pretty well. Even though I may listen to the right people, which I do sometimes, I don’t care to blog about it because I don’t want to regurgitate. I need to become an expert in something, instead of dicking around in generalities.
Finally, I haven’t been commenting much because I don’t have much love for Barack Obama. No, no, I haven’t flipped back to the Republican Party. I certainly don’t want to be associated with the jackasses in charge of that party. I don’t think Republicans are jackasses, but I think the party is controlled by jackasses.
Here is my problem with Barack Obama: Preventative Detention. On civil liberties, Obama has been as dangerous and disingenuous as Bush. Here, he broke his promises. He has not created a more transparent government.
Yes, politicians are apt to break promises. And I wasn’t expecting him to be perfect after the debacle with warrantless eavesdropping, but preventative detention should be some joke. It should be a phrase devised by a Swiftian satirist, not a legitimate phrase. It is more chilling than even harsh interrogation (or whatever euphemism of the week they’ve switched to these days — and by they I mean both the politicians and the mainstream media).
Obama may do great things. He may reform healthcare, save the country from an economic crisis, help stave off global warming, but none of this really matters if he fails us on civil liberties. He may save the body, but he is destroying the soul. So, yes, I said it, Barack Obama threatens to destroy the soul of America. Now I sound like a ridiculous jackass. I was wishing I’d sound more like Cicero.
I hate to go all doom and gloom. It is at this point that I wonder if the America I know will disappear. It is an inevitable thought after I invoke Cicero. The troubling thing about Cicero is that by some accounts, the Republic was pretty much already dead by the time Cicero was around. See Sulla. Perhaps everyone will look back and see the fall of America at about the time it became an empire.
It becomes even more discouraging when preventative detention isn’t on the front page of newspapers. I don’t want to say we’re myopic as a culture and too focused on the day to day. Everybody has those tendencies (or rather, cognitive biases against long-term rewards), and it is unsurprising that this would manifest itself at the societal level. It is useless to rail against this myopia. I’m amazed at the Founders’ genius. They didn’t say, “I wish people were less ambitious. This government thing would be easier. I guess it will never work.” Instead, they set ambition against ambition and set up multiple branches of government.
Look how resilient America is. We survived McCarthyism, did we not? We still have freedom, even though we were the country of both slavery and Jim Crow. Interesting feat, isn’t it? Slavery trampled upon ancient freedoms more than any offense Barack Obama could commit against the Constitution. Hell, we have a black president. Holy fucking shit. That’s progress. So I’m not full of despair.
A few things truly set my soul alight when it comes to politics. The first two, which are interrelated, are civil liberties and ending the empire. I don’t want America to even have the ability to start any war it wants. In fact, my radical idea is to eliminate our standing armies, but maintain our strong navies. Yes, this will mean we will be unable to prevent some atrocities. However, we never fixed Darfur anyway and we start much more shit than we fix. We should not be able to project military power anywhere because this power will be abused. It is not a matter of being more responsible because you can’t shift human nature. The next thing that sets my soul afire is the issue of corporate money in politics. That’s the biggest structural source of corruption right now. At least, it seems so from my very ignorant point of view. I suppose it would be wise to add Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and the Theft of Human Rights to my reading list.
There are other issues that I think are very important, but they don’t speak to my soul the same way. I have to listen to my soul. I have to focus.