Saturday, November 28, 2020

#333 / Dependent On The Government


You won't find me quoting Charles Koch very often. Wikipedia identifies Koch as "an American businessman and philanthropist, ranked, as of March 2019, as the 11th-richest person in the world." Charles Koch, and his late brother David, have usually been identified together, known as the "Koch Brothers." They have provided much of the massive funding needed to create the current corporate and right-wing dominance of our national politics. The Koch Brothers definitely figure in the list of the "Evil Geniuses" named by Kurt Anderson in the book by that name. They are not role models whom I would like to suggest should be emulated. Their views are not ones with which I agree.

I used the Charles Koch quote, above, because I wanted to mention, in today's blog posting, a less lofty statement to the exact same effect. The statement I am talking about was found in a letter to the editor printed in my hometown newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, on election day, November 3, 2020:

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That was Democrat President John F. Kennedy. That’s not the Democratic party of today. They are attempting to destroy the United States and all it stands for. The Democrats do not raise your hopes. The Democrats want people dependent on the government.

Republicans want a strong economy. We want all to prosper. Republicans want fewer regulations so people can build their lives. Republicans believe in our Constitution. Why do so many people want to come here? We have to preserve our lives and liberties. Republicans want a great country because it’s simple, “We Live Here” (emphasis added).

This comment is an excellent example of the "splitting" phenomenon mentioned in my blog posting yesterday. It is not true, in fact, that the Democratic Party is "attempting to destroy the United States and all it stands for." It is also not true that Democrats "want people dependent on the government." 

These ideas about Democrats and the Democratic Party are representative of what right-wing political figures like the Koch Brothers claim. As noted in the image at the top of this blog posting, the Koch Brothers' analysis is that enforcing dependence on government is the mechanism by which governmental control over everyone can be achieved. In other words, building "dependence on the government" is a necessary step towards totalitarianism. Charles Koch makes this point as an observation. Linda from Scotts Valley posits this as a plot, an intentional step in the long term plan of the Democratic Party to "destroy the United States and all it stands for."

There is no doubt that Democrats and Republicans have a major disagreement over what the role of the government should be, and I would like to suggest that the way to help "heal the split," and to open a reasonable dialogue about what that role really ought to be, should begin with an acknowledgment that "the government" is not something different from the people, but that in our small-d democratic and self-governing nation, we are the government. The government is dependent on us. Not the opposite. 

Once we can see that what "the government" does, or is forbidden from doing, depends on our own political choices and decisions, we can then "reason together" about what, in any specific case, we want the government to do (or not to do). There are different ideas about that, of course! But let's get beyond thinking that these disagreements are between "good" and "evil" (Kurt Anderson's book title should not deceive us; while I think the points he makes are sound, it could be that the title encourages that "splitting" phenomenon which we need to be careful to avoid). 

We are "in this together," and that means all of us. We must quickly confront daunting challenges - and exciting opportunities. To do that, we need to get past "the split," and determine what we want our government to do. 

It is important to begin that debate, and make some decisions because, just to reiterate, we are not "dependent on the government." 

The government is dependent on us!

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