The Military Does Not Defend My Freedoms

A refrain that Americans hear endlessly from nearly all ends of the political spectrum, and certainly from the Republicans (who were antiwar in the 1930s, but no longer) and the Democrats (who were antiwar in the 1980s, but no longer), is how “the military defends our freedoms”. This is unquestionable, beyond the pale to doubt in the slightest, a dogma that no one dares question. It is also utter bullshit. The military has never defended any of my freedoms, and, with the possible exception of the “freedoms” of a few select interest groups of particular economic or political potency, has never defended much of anybody’s. Let me ask, then:

When blacks were enslaved and American Indians had their lands stolen from them by force and by fraud, where was the military?

When the blatantly unconstitutional and tyrannical Alien and Sedition acts were passed by Congress and President Adams, where was the military?

When Abraham Lincoln jailed elected Representatives and newspaper editors for having the temerity to publicly oppose him, where was the military?

When Woodrow Wilson jailed Mennonites for refusing to be drafted into his useless European war and Eugene V. Debs for daring to speak out against it, where was the military?

When the rights of American citizens were baldly violated – when the likes of Emma Goldman were deported from their own country, when the West Coast Japanese-Americans were imprisoned by it, and when Anwar and Abdulrahman al-Alwaki were executed without trial by it, where was the military?

When Congress unconstitutionally abdicated its role in setting monetary policy by outsourcing it to a private, for-profit bank called the Federal Reserve, where was the military?

When laughable and nonsensical laws like Prohibition were passed that violated rights in the name of armed do-gooderism, where was the military?

When J. Edgar Hoover compiled dossiers on non-violent, law-abiding citizens under COINTELPRO in an attempt to find ways to intimidate them out of exercising their rights, where was the military?

When one of the most fundamental of human freedoms, freedom of association, was destroyed by the passage of one after another utopian “civil rights” law, where was the military?

When the absolute most fundamental of human rights – the right to life – was destroyed by the Supreme Court in their appalling Roe v. Wade decision, where was the military?

When millions of Americans were drafted into a slave army to fight an unconstitutional, undeclared war in Vietnam, where was the military?

When American citizens were intimidated into not speaking their minds – both leftists by McCarthyism and rightists under the deadly-serious doctrine of Political Correctness, where was the military?

When an all-out assault on the presence of faith in public life – right down to a very real War on Christmas – became ever more powerful and intolerant, where was the military?

When the assault on the right of citizens to keep and bear arms pressed on, where was the military?

When a militarized police conducted combat assaults against admittedly kooky, but essentially harmless groups of American citizens on US soil – the MOVE bombing, Waco, Ruby Ridge – where was the military?

When the country was flooded by millions of Third World proletarians under the approving eye of a government that simply refused to enforce the peoples’ laws, where was the military?

When this resulted in the destruction of the native-born working class of all races and changed the political balance of the nation by, in the words of Bertolt Brecht, dissolving the people and electing another in its place, where was the military?

When the Bush/Obama outrages against civil rights continued unabated – the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, Room 641A, Guantanamo, military tribunals, the NDAA, the persecution against and jailing of journalists and whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Thomas Drake – where was the military?

When our sons – and this time, God forgive us, our daughters – were again sent into unconstitutional undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where was the military?

When the hard-earned money of citizens was involuntarily taken by the government to reimburse crooked bankers for the losses they incurred when the massive financial frauds they had undertaken finally collapsed around them, where was the military?

When the citizens were forced under penalty of law to buy products from private, for-profit corporations in the name of “health care reform”, and when people of faith were forced by these laws to pay for birth control and abortifacients they found morally horrifying, where was the military?

Where were they? At best they were nowhere to be found. At worst, and perhaps more commonly, they were actively a part of denying or destroying the freedoms I am so often told they are there to defend.

So let me hear no more about how the military “defends my freedoms”.


How Bad Laws Undermine Bad Governments

One problem with bad – or even just badly-passed – laws is that they encourage disrespect for the law in general. Look at Prohibition: a ridiculous law that was widely-ignored, and caused normal people to look the other way on principle as criminals violated it. What did this do? Well, first, it made criminals of people who saw themselves as normal citizens, causing them to fear the government as an enemy instead of valuing it as a servant. Secondly, it entrenched organized criminals so deeply in our society that their influence didn’t really wane until the rising socioeconomic status of the communities it operated in allowed the people who might have gotten involved in it to find better job opportunities that didn’t involve the possibility of getting machine-gunned.

Illegal immigration is a fine example of this point. If millions of people can feel free to simply ignore the law – if they are, in fact, encouraged to do so – because it is useful to people who have money and power that they should (more cheap labor for Republican-donating business interests, more potential votes for Democratic politicians), then why should anybody else feel an obligation to obey the law based solely on principle? Why, too, when Wall Street crashes the economy with massive, bare-faced fraud, and not only does no one go to jail for it, but politicians of both parties bail them out with taxpayer money for their trouble? It begins to appear to people as if laws are something only the middle-class need worry about – that there are people who are above the law and below the law. Obeying laws you dislike or disagree with simply out of respect for the legitimacy of the government that created them starts to look like a game for suckers.

Once that respect and sense of legitimacy starts slipping away, it’s very hard to restore. It’s one of those psychological barriers that, once you pass it, you can’t really go back again: like the sense of white colonizers as all-powerful and godlike that kept the dark-skinned and colonized from rising up against them – once that barrier was breached and the realization that the colonizers were only human really sunk in, colonialism was doomed. Shattered illusions are powerful and dangerous things.

Unless a government plans to come out as an absolute, goose-stepping, Gulag-building tyranny, it really needs to be careful not to pass a lot of laws that, pass laws in such a way that, or selectively enforce laws in such a way that undermine its legitimacy and respect for its laws in the eyes of its people. The thing is, you can’t arrest everybody. Governments rely on the fact that most people will abide by the law, even laws they disagree with personally. And people do so for only two reasons – out of acceptance of the legitimacy of a government and attendant respect for the laws it passes, or out of fear of its enforcement apparatus.

So what happens when the former becomes irretrievably eroded?

Well, then two possible things – chaos, or tyranny. Once the majority of people have the illusion that the government possesses legitimacy shattered for them, and once they lose respect for the law, then the only thing left in the government’s bag of tricks, if they want people to continue to not simply ignore laws they don’t like, is fear.

Neither option – either chaos or tyranny – sounds too pleasant to me, but here we are.

By no means am I saying, by the way, that we have yet arrived at that juncture. But it is clear that we have a trend on our hands – one that has been continued through Presidents of both parties, and that I see no evidence will be reversed anytime soon.

The Super Bowl Is America

Shameless Commercialism? Sickening exploitation of women and children? A ghastly, inappropriate response to a recent tragedy? Women who dress and act in public the way you’d have to go to a strip joint to see women dress and act 30 years ago? Loud, unlistenable, mass-produced music product? Techno-grandiosity in the service of crass, meaningless, artless distraction? Shameless ass-kissing of the military-industrial complex contrasted perfectly against an embarrassing failure caused by neglected, crumbling civil infrastructure?

The Super Bowl really is a microcosm of America today.