(Crossposted from http://www.firefly-dreaming.com)
A little known fact: I was once a Congressional intern, doing research on issues affecting the federal workforce. It was the fall of 2007. The season I spent on the Hill was one of the most intense of my adult life, even more stressful than going through a divorce while in a PhD program. The nightmares I had every night that season were simply terrifying. [Edit: those of you who have been WYFP regulars might remember my diary “WYFP: The Nightmare Edition” that I posted in the fall of 2007. It was written during this internship. If you want to refresh your memory, please wait until after the boycott this week.] Publicly, I put it down to massive stress induced by a hellish commute and the daily barrage of horror stories about outsourcing, of entire workforces being “sold down the river” to corporations and turned into contract labor. But in the back of my mind, I knew there was far more wrong than merely ideology. Something in the back of my head kept thinking that the entire mess was deliberate policy, that it served a purpose, and that the commonweal of the nation was not on the Republicans’ agenda. That our very sovereignty — the ability of an informed citizenry to be heeded and respected by its chosen government, the needs of the many protected by that government — was being undermined.
Truthout published an article on September 3rd that confirms much of what troubled me so greatly that season, http://www.truth-out.org/goodb… “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult”, by Mike Lofgren, a former high-ranking GOP staffer on Capitol Hill, that rips the mask off the real agenda of the GOP. None of this should be a surprise to any of us.
I’ve only been screaming about this nexus for ten years, people. I saw this come together right after 9/11, and I was just sick to the pit of my gut over what I feared was coming our way. As a graduate student in History, I studied, among other things, trade and empire in the Indian Ocean basin and early modern Europe. I took classes and read widely on the mercantile companies such as the English East India Company and the Dutch VOC. I studied the Crusades, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the rise of the urban middle class, the Black Death, the Inquisition, the spice wars, the slow devolution of Mughal rule to the British in Bengal, the stratified society of Batavia, now Jakarta, Indonesia, and so much more it would take the rest of the night to recount. The period spanned by my reading? Oh, let’s start with the 12th century, and take it up to India’s Partition in 1947.
Some members of my natal family did not understand why I became such a vocal critic of the GWB administration. When that administration took us into Afghanistan, justifiable though it might have seemed at the time, and then Iraq, I came to the conclusion that the country had taken so wrong a turn that we would soon see very destructive consequences for our society, our polity and our economy. This stuff was going to bankrupt the nation, and enrich the already fabulously wealthy at the citizenry’s expense. I arrived at that conviction because of my PhD studies. Some dismissed my fears and thought I had become a mush-brained egghead intellectual. But time, sadly, has vindicated my position. Please note that I feel no joy in this at all. The confirmation of it is here in this quote from the linked article:
The results of the last decade of unbridled militarism and the Democrats’ cowardly refusal to reverse it, have been disastrous both strategically and fiscally. It has made the United States less prosperous, less secure and less free. Unfortunately, the militarism and the promiscuous intervention it gives rise to are only likely to abate when the Treasury is exhausted, just as it happened to the Dutch Republic and the British Empire.
This quote is from a Republican who stood near the epicenter of the political processes that have left us in this ghastly mess. So please, everyone, when someone who has spent time studying a particular period and political entity in-depth, as I did both the Dutch and British Empires in the Indian Ocean basin, don’t dismiss their concerns as mere pseudo-intellectual Chicken Little-ism. We eggheads DO know what we are talking about. And I would give anything for us as a country to have not walked down this road.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is only that portion of the GOP involved in the military-industrial complex who are driving this. If you ignore the culture warriors, you are making a severe mistake. They are the new crusaders. Religious dogmatism and and military profiteering are fused at the hip. This is not new, historically speaking.
Some liberal writers have opined that the different socio-economic perspectives separating the “business” wing of the GOP and the religious right make it an unstable coalition that could crack. I am not so sure. There is no fundamental disagreement on which direction the two factions want to take the country, merely how far in that direction they want to take it. The plutocrats would drag us back to the Gilded Age, the theocrats to the Salem witch trials. In any case, those consummate plutocrats, the Koch brothers, are pumping large sums of money into Michele Bachman’s presidential campaign, so one ought not make too much of a potential plutocrat-theocrat split.
My minor field was early modern Europe, with tons of medieval history also tossed into the mix. Let’s not be schizophrenic about which period of history we may find ourselves reinventing: my vote is 16th century Europe, a period of rapid re-entrenchment for the nobility, deepening misery for the peasantry and urban poor, and a charmed but precarious existence for the bourgeoisie — the master craftsmen and solid merchants of cities like London, Paris, Bruges, Utrecht, Venice, Florence, etc. It was riven by religious war, gilded to excess with glorious pomp at the courts of the Valois and Tudor monarchies, and it reeked with the charred corpses of heretics burned at the stake by both sides of the Catholic/Protestant split. The 17th century — the one that saw the establishment of the first European colonies in the Americas — was not much better in the Old Countries, which explains why so many were so eager to undertake such perilous voyages in wooden ships less than 100′ long from stem to stern. It should also explain why the Founding Fathers were so thoughtful and careful in drafting the US Constitution: community memory of the brutalities of early modern Europe lingered for generations.
Let me take this preceding point further. The culture war furthers the military adventurism that is pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into corporate coffers. I have long struggled to find some sane, rational reason why, for example, this country has turned its educational system upside down. Why this ridiculous focus on testing? Why must teachers “drill and kill” academic content? Why the hours endlessly spent teaching kids how to take tests in English and math and science? Why have the social sciences, or social studies, and art and music been so de-emphasized, especially on the secondary level? I’m not blaming the teachers, especially not the social studies teachers. Most do know the historical truth, and try to tell as much of it as they can without getting themselves complained about and fired. (This is why there’s a ferocious war being waged against teachers’ unions. Tenure is not a luxury.) When the rhetoric coming out of politicians’ and many state and federal education officials’ mouths valo
rizes the development of critical thinkers, why is so much weight given to test scores? The answer, if we follow this logically and incorporate Mr. Lofgren’s admissions into our research data, is frighteningly simple: They are not serious about first-rate education. Not for its own sake, and not for the intellectual and analytical development of the citizenry. What they want are cogs in the machine. They want prayer, corrupted science, and propaganda-cum-social-sciences in the classroom as the means to indoctrinate and dumb down the rising generation. They want the bright to accept the status quo, submit to student-loan debt peonage and become willing participants in corporate empires. And they want the less-than-bright to be willing cannon fodder. If an alternative can be envisioned by enough citizens who feel empowered to create positive change, this exploitative nexus can be dismantled. And that they are determined to prevent at all costs.
Mr. Lofgren writes one more pithy piece of advice:
If you think Paul Ryan and his Ayn Rand-worshipping colleagues aren’t after your Social Security and Medicare, I am here to disabuse you of your naiveté. They will move heaven and earth to force through tax cuts that will so starve the government of revenue that they will be “forced” to make “hard choices” – and that doesn’t mean repealing those very same tax cuts, it means cutting the benefits for which you worked.
People, we have been warned. Pay attention and be ready to scream bloody murder. If we lose Social Security and Medicare, if our monies are put wholly into the hands of Wall Street and the health insurance industry, it is as good as squandered.
I encourage everyone to read the article. We do not have two factions within the TP/GOP. We have, instead, a Hydra. If we concentrate too closely on one or two heads, the other 98 will eat us alive.