"Not being able to govern events, I govern myself." ~ Michel de Montaigne
Taking the Bull by the Tail
Column by Duane Colyar.
Exclusive to STR
While reading news reports in a local daily that is now so small it would barely cover the bottom of a birdcage, my mind wandered over the dark scenes of modern-day America: endless wars of dubious constitutionality and military occupations spawning future wars; hit squads flying uninvited into a sovereign nation; the spectacle of police dressed in paramilitary gear, looking for all the world like an occupying army, while mistakenly bursting into the homes of innocent Americans; national debt and unfunded social welfare liabilities totaling over $100 trillion; coercive government health-care mandates; proposals for government Internet kill-switches; government cameras dotting the landscape; TSA gropers and porno-scanners; the farmer who got arrested for shining a flashlight on the dark, black helicopter hovering 500 feet above his home on the Canadian border; my bank account and emails subject to secret review by shadowy figures; and even my library book selection made available to the government upon demand.
I began to wonder when, exactly, Orwell’s 1984 became an instruction manual.
Then, from the dusty cobwebs that haunt the back of my mind, I remembered a quote from President Truman when he warned the American people that we cannot let fear, alarm and hysteria stampede us into becoming the very thing we say we’re fighting against. Too many politicians of every stripe have been more than willing to encourage and promote fear to enhance their power, prestige and political agenda; in effect whispering into our inner ear, “You must be very, very afraid, but not to worry, we’ll protect you. All you have to do is give up some of your liberty and then you’ll be safe and secure.”
It seems the rancorous struggle between the political parties acts as mere camouflage, a thin veil obscuring a more profound power struggle that exists between a strong, centralized federal Empire and us, the people; a struggle between a government run amok and those who are forced to support it.
This distinction between a government and a people was hammered home by Woody Guthrie, the legendary folk singer, writer and radical left-winger. He was living in Los Angeles during the late ‘40s when the FBI made one of their unannounced visits to interview him. One of the questions they asked was, “Would you carry a gun for your country?” Woody reached for his guitar and answered with a memorable couplet he composed on the spot using the melody from an old folk tune.
“Would you carry a gun for your country?
I told the FBI, ‘Yea!’
I’ll point a gun for my country,
But I won’t guarantee you which way.”
He put down the guitar and, of course, stayed on the government watch list.
While I’m not sympathetic with Guthrie’s left-wing agenda, I am in awe of his ability to express an oft-neglected truth spontaneously in a few simple words: a country and its government are not one and the same, they are two separate entities. I can support my country, i.e., my civil society at all times while choosing to support the government only on those rare occasions when it deserves it. We are taught, starting in grade school, the myth that you support your country through supporting the government, but when it comes to war, we are told we are fighting for “our country,” not the government, the actions of which usually caused the war or manipulated us into one. After all, how many of us could be expected to die for something called “our government”? This convenient myth is perpetuated by those who would live off our labor and sacrifice our blood for national power, glory and the foreign resources with which they can line their own pockets and the pockets of their corporate and special interest friends.
“You must be very, very afraid….”
Sorry, I’m not afraid, so don’t go starting an Orwellian police state for my benefit. Indeed, it seems that a nonsensical gag line from the 1930s comedian, W.C. Fields, could now serve as a clarion call for citizen action, “We must take the bull by the tail and face the situation!”