The Limits of Tyrants Are Prescribed By the Endurance of Those Whom They Oppress
The Food Research and Action Center released a disturbing report about food hardship and hunger in the United States. According to the report, nearly one in five Americans simply does not have enough money to buy food that they and their family need. In 21 states, at least 20 percent of respondents said they did not have enough money to buy food in the past 12 months, while at least 15 percent of respondents in 45 states answered in the affirmative. No part of the country is untouched by this crisis.
And yet, Tea Party-sponsored governors and lawmakers around the country will make no mention of this, as they channel their inner tyrant and slash state budgets at the expense of the poor and working people. Megalomaniacs, they seem to derive pleasure from using their power to make people hurt - certain people, that is. After all, their talk of fiscal responsibility is selective, as austerity is reserved for the poor. The rich are not being asked to tighten their belt, but rather are being rewarded with tax breaks. In that regard, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is doing exactly what his masters, the Koch brothers, instructed him to do. When America, backward and crumbling, should be investing in infrastructure and technology to create jobs and promote growth, some governors reject high-speed rail projects and wear their ignorance as a badge of honor.
Moreover, the concept of the budget crisis is being used as a subterfuge—a scam, if you will— to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. And all the better for the extreme right if they can slip something devious like anti-gay language in the legislation when no one is looking. Because that’s what tricksters do.
Unions have lost ground over the years, and not surprisingly, so too have working people, in terms of declining wages and a lower standard of living. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and others would make public unions the new welfare queens, the new bogeyman. And we are supposed to believe that public school teachers are the new millionaires, getting rich at the public’s expense and breaking the backs of state budgets with their exorbitant salaries—if you consider $40,000 or $60,000 a lot, that is. And when nobody is looking, the true millionaires and billionaires are making out like true bandits, taking away most of the nation’s wealth.
But people are starting to wake up, which is why they are engaging in nonviolent protest by the thousands in Madison and elsewhere in America. They have much in common with protestors in Tripoli, Cairo and other nations in the Mideast, where the masses are divesting themselves of the mob bosses, potentates and presidents-for-life that have passed for leadership in that part of the world. All they want is to be able to put food on the table, to feed their children. But they are unable to do so.
Like Egypt’s Mubarak and Qaddafi, America’s Tea Party rulers - kleptocrats who feign populist tendencies - are driven by delusions of grandeur and utter contempt for the will of the masses. When the people do not go along with the program, these authoritarian leaders maintain power by brute force, arrests or through the barrel of a gun - or at least consider it is an option. The primary difference is that the Mideast rulers operate under no pretense of democracy. Politics in the U.S. enjoys at least a democratic veneer. And in a technical sense the electorate, however uninformed and prone to act in their own economic interests, actually cast their ballots for such walking disasters as Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio, and Walker of Wisconsin.
But thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, corporations and wealthy interests have unlimited influence over elections. America really is owned by a handful of individuals, and the electoral system has turned into a tool to do the bidding of the oligarchs. So what is the real difference between an autocrat who holds no elections, or holds a sham election and declares victory, and an oligarch who purchases an election with cash and utilizes corporate cronies to rule by proxy?
When the poor and working poor cannot afford to feed their families, all bets are off. Faced with rising inequality, oppressive laws and the naked greed of the powerful, people take to the streets. Here in the land of opportunity, wealthy conservative interests are jonesing to destroy the unions, the only thing standing between them and unlimited political and economic power. Who wins depends on how far the common folks are able and willing to take it.
Perhaps Frederick Douglass said it best: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
David A. Love