I asked my friend, recent Congressional candidate and Army veteran Tony Arterburn to write another essay for us, with his thoughts around Thanksgiving.
“There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” So said the British economist Adam Smith when speaking to a friend about the recent failures of his beloved England, brought on by those pesky colonies and rebels on the other side of the Atlantic.
In this instance Adam Smith needs no revision as we can see the ruin plastered all over our newspapers and on the ever present screen and soul destroying medium known as cable news. Why even bring this up isn’t it, after all, Thanksgiving; must you be a Buzz Killington? Well, yes and no. I do have a point in bringing to light the problems we face before we settle in with our families, turkey dinners, and seven hours of pregame analysis and in my case, thank goodness, just the former two.
Does anyone else recall that in most of history and especially our own, chaos and uncertainty was a price paid for an injustice or cause? The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 comes to mind, crushed by Washington and Hamilton while our nation was in its infancy. The root cause, a consumption tax levied on a most American of beverages. How about John Brown’s taking of Harper’s ferry doing what he thought was his Christian duty by attempting to incite a revolution that would break the chains of slavery in the U.S. once and for all, a misguided and some would say noble effort that was put down by Robert E. Lee and the future Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson?
Leaping in chunks of at least five decades between examples we land on the bonus marchers of 1932. Veterans of World War 1 who had the temerity to ask their government for an advance on a measly $1,000 so they could feed their families in a depression brought on by our own Federal reserve. To clear out the peaceful assembly on the Washington Mall, General Douglas MacArthur sent in troops with bayonets that killed two marchers and tear gas that killed an infant.
In the not so distant past there were race riots in Watts that claimed the lives of 34 and cost over 40 million dollars in property damage. One need not be a Rhodes scholar to figure out that if you deny one group of citizens their most basic rights and not others there is bound to be some fallout or what we who dabble in the realm of foreign policy call “blowback”. All of this is elementary and when studied through the lens of history makes perfect sense, cause and effect. Not only oppression but state sponsored oppression was bound to get its comeuppance; you know that Isaac Newton fellow was on to something.
Of course it becomes nearly impossible to write an article about insurrection and government responses to and not mention the “flower children,” or the young people of the 1960’s President Nixon referred to as “bums”. Draft cards, bras and one can only assume billions of rolling papers were burned in protest to the Vietnam War. “Hey, hey, LBJ how many kids did you kill today?” was their mantra at least until 1969. And isn’t it the irony of ironies that the generation who rallied around that cry with so much moral indignation for war they saw as immoral produced the politicians and policies that would oversee the termination of millions upon millions of unborn children?
Which brings us to our current calamity in Ferguson, MO and elsewhere, or what seems to be, for some, an excuse to loot and burn unfolding throughout what used to be a free country. The details of the case are as boring as transcripts from those Sunday morning talk shows – you know the kind, where the politician is so boring and banal you almost pick up the phone and call the lobbying firm who put him in office to complain? So we can spare each other the task of reliving something that is simply sad and boring.
It does however beg the question, why all this rage against a light that is not in fact dying and these violent shoves and kicks against an already open door? In other words, is this shooting in the heartland a remnant of our racist past or just what it appears to be to most logical and sane individuals, a damn awful thing that happens in an imperfect world?
In both 2008 and 2012 we elected a black president. We were told this was the actions of a “post racial” Nation or something like that. Combat Veterans of our most recent and ongoing wars yawn at the prospect of racism and class, we never had time to find out what your religion was or test the melanin in your skin before asking if you could cover me. How pedestrian to assume that we are still in the throes of racist oppression and Jim Crow, something that would actually merit a riot or two. “What we have here is a failure to communicate” said the warden in the Paul Newman movie ‘Cool hand Luke’. That may be the root of the problem indeed.
The new oppression lurks in the isolation of social media and modern electronics, the disconnection from our friends and families to a blaring T.V. The failed gods of modernity and the impotence of our political leaders to chart a course any red blooded American would want to follow has led us to this moment in time where the real causes of oppression and human rights violations, perpetual war, the Patriot Act, the drug war, banks too big to fail and a daily loss of American identity. Maybe this is the reason why our brothers and sisters in communities all over the country rally at the chance to stand together right or wrong as not all of them are looters or criminals, in an attempt feel the togetherness of yesteryear, when we had more churches to attend than channels to watch.
Timothy Leary of 1960’s drug culture fame admonished, “tune in, turn on and drop out.” Well, he is dead and so is his revolution. On this Thanksgiving, for heaven’s sake, tune out of your social media, turn off your T.V., and drop the divisive political talk from your family table. After all it’s the only truly American thing we have left.