Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Great Sinking

The Great Sinking

All nations, including the United States, undergo periods of sinking and capsize; when their governments and citizens abandon, trivialize and dismiss the principles which they profess to hold true. These sinkings most often arise from the temptation for expediency -- for taking the short cut -- without regard to its consequences on individual citizens and the nation itself.

One great sinking in United States history was the arrest and imprisonment of Japanese American citizens living in California during World War II. This action was taken due to the fear that "some" American citizens of Japanese descent living on the west coast could be spies for the Japanese government which attacked Pearl Harbor. Thus a "short cut" was taken. Rather than arrest individuals -- of any ethnicity -- suspected of spying, the US government took the short cut of arresting all Japanese-Americans in California and locking up them up in prison camps. During this same period, the US government did not conduct wholesale imprisonment of American citizens of German or Italian descent.

A second great sinking in American history was the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which declared it legal for state and federal governments to single out one group of American citizens -- citizens of African American descent -- and subject them to wholly separate standards of treatment, rights and liberties as compared to all other American citizens. Integral to the Supreme Court's enshrinement of Jim Crow in Plessy was the unstated fear that enforcing the Constitution might incite white southern mobs to armed insurrection. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court surrendered the nation to mob rule and granted mob rule precedence over the Constitution itself.*

The third and most important Great Sinking in American history is the endless, repetitive violation of legal treaties signed by the United States with American Indians. In a series of events too numerous to be mentioned individually, the United States enacted legal treaties with American Indian tribes which delineated tribal territory from territory available for ownership and settlement by non-Indians. These treaties specifically recognized the primacy of Indian ownership and sovereignty of the lands in question. Yet as soon as settlers and corporate interests decided they "wanted" the territories legally held by American Indian nations, the United States broke its own treaties and gave the mob what it wanted.

These Great Sinkings were driven by expediency. They were short cuts. They were naked appeasements to the wishes of a mob. In all three of these sinkings, the mob made these demands because their own legal rights were not at risk. Whites of the Southern States had nothing to fear from Jim Crow since it applied only to people with black skin. European Americans had nothing to fear from the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II -- they were not of Japanese descent. European Americans had nothing to fear by demanding the US break its treaties with sovereign American Indian nations -- they weren't American Indians and stood to directly benefit from the Indians' sovereign lands being stolen.

It is very easy to demand radical curtailment of Constitutional rights for others, while reserving them for yourself. In all three of these cases, the US government bowed to the wishes of the mob and its courts gave these illegal actions the veneer of legal legitimacy. Each time, government and its courts made the rule of law and the Constitution secondary to the wishes of the mob.

The Great Sinking we witness today in the United States flows directly from these Great Sinkings of the past. The logic is the same, the rationale is the same, the excuses are the same, the motivators of expediency and taking short cuts are the same, the use of the courts to declare legal what is illegal is the same. The mob's desire to set aside the Constitution itself is the same. If Constitutional limits and protections stand in the way of what the mob wants, the mob demands the Constitution itself be set aside.

The United States Constitution was written to prevent our government from swaying and veering and back-tracking solely to satisfy the wishes and wants of a mob. While representatives in the House are apportioned to each state based on population, in the Senate each state has two Senators regardless of its population. Amendment procedures for the Constitution are onerous and difficult. The oaths of office taken by the President, House, Senate and Supreme Court members require each to publicly swear allegiance to the U.S. Constitution -- not the mob. These oaths are legally binding and enforceable. These measures were taken to prevent politicans from amending or suspending the Constitution every time it interfered with what a mob wanted.

These restrictions were written into the Constitution because its authors were acutely aware that elected leaders of the U.S. government would be constantly tempted to "break the rules just this once" to give the mob what it wanted. The founders knew that any law set aside at the whim of a mob ceases to function as a law. Not only does this render the law meaningless, it creates the viciously false impression that the nation lives under the rule of law while in fact it does not. The exception swallows the rule. The founders knew well that laws which do not mean what they say are worse than having no laws at all.

Mob rule is the antonym of the Golden Rule. Mob rule teaches it is perfectly fine to treat others in ways you would not want to be treated. Mob rule preaches that any person or group of people can be treated in any fashion the mob wishes. Mob rule demands government and the courts bow to the mob's wishes no matter how irrational, illegal, unfair or violent those wishes may be. Mob rule demands immediate and blind obedience without questions to the motivations, wisdom or efficacy of the mob's demands. The Mob believes its sole sanction and justification for its demands is its own existence -- as a mob.

No American wishes to be tortured or imprisoned unjustly. No American wishes such treatment to occur to a member of their family or circle of acquaintances. Yet, when acting as a Mob, many Americans enthusiastically support the torture and unjust imprisonment of others. When acting as mob, many Americans demand their government commit such actions on their behalf. When acting as a mob, many Americans demand their elected officials violate their sworn oaths of office and support these actions -- or be voted out of office. When acting as a mob, many Americans and their elected leaders demand our judges and courts set aside the United States Constitution itself so as to give these actions the veneer of legality. When acting as mob, many Americans attack the "patriotism" and loyalty of any other citizen, elected official, judge or jury who questions the legality, morality or soundness of such actions. The mob takes as a personal insult and betrayal the voice of anyone who questions if or how torture and unjust imprisonment comport with the United States Constitution, the Golden Rule or any other foundational tenet of a civilized society. The Mob considers those who swear loyalty to the rule of law as disloyal traitors. To the Mob there can be only one loyalty -- to the whims and wishes of the Mob.

A mob is a collection of individuals who are undefined except through their allegiance to the mob itself. This sounds vague and nonsensical precisely because it is. Mobs do not have a well-defined head, tail, boundary or structure. Mobs arise spontaneously. Nobody can say precisely how mobs form or who formed them. From the exterior, mobs appear organized and willful -- yet from the inside they have no structure or center. The more powerful the mob, the more each person within it is powerless. The larger the mob, the smaller each person is within it.

Mobs are hostile to rational deliberation and diversity of opinion. Once debate and discussion occurs, the mob dissolves back into a collection of individual, distinct people. A mob is comprised of individuals but cannot tolerate individuals. One cannot be an individual and a member of a mob. Membership in your own body and in the body of the mob are mutually exclusive.

Unwittingly or not, the US President, many US elected leaders, many appointed civil servants and many US citizens employed in the news media are actively pushing the series of complex levers and buttons necessary to once again turn the American citizenry into the types of mob who demanded, created, allowed or stood idly by during the Great Sinkings of American history as described above. This is evidenced in several key ways:

1) The questioning of an individual's motives, loyalty and patriotism if that person expresses an opinion different from that of the mob. Mobs demand loyalty and seek to silence the personal expressions of their members and others. Without such strictures, mobs dissolve. Recent accusations by US officials up to the President that opposition to the President's policies are akin to aiding and abetting or appeasing the "enemy" are characteristic of mob behavior.

2) The supremacy of the Mob's wishes to the rule of law. Mobs believe that laws exist only to serve and further the mob and its wishes. When an elected official argues the Constitution must be "flexible" or must be set aside "just this once" -- what you are being told is that the Constitution must bow to the wishes of a mob. If the demands of the mob could be met through the rule of law, mobs would not exist.

3. Mobs inherently adopt the stance colloquially known as "Don't Confuse Me With the Facts." Objectively testable facts are considered irrelevant to the fervent wishes of the mob unless they support its wishes. "We don't need your steenking facts -- we've got our own" is the mantra of a mob.** Or as the musical group Black Flag sarcastically declared in the song "I've Heard it Before" -- "Don't need their bogus attitudes -- got enough of my own."

4. Mobs dismiss or diminish the rights and concerns of those who are not in the mob. If innocent people are killed, injured, tortured or unjustly imprisoned by the actions of the mob, the mob justifies these violations as being regrettable but necessary to achieve a "greater good for the whole" -- ie. the whole mob. A common mob mantra heard to today is that "even if just one life is saved, it is worth it." But this only refers to an innocent member of the mob. Mob psychology places primacy on membership. Southern white lynch mobs did not care if the black man they hung was guilty or not, since just the lynching itself sent a "message" to all blacks that this was their fate if they did not "behave." *** Massive civilian deaths in southern Lebanon by Israeli bombing in July were justified by claims that Lebanese lives were not "worth" as much as Israeli lives. The torture of innocents mistakenly held as terrorist suspects by the US CIA and military are rationalized as unfortunate but "necessary" to ensure Americans are not killed by terrorists. The message is simple: some innocent lives are worth much more than others; and other innocent lives are worthless. This is the message of a mob.

Mob psychology is well known, well studied and readily open to fresh examination and research. Suppression of free expression, calls for "temporary" suspensions of Constitutional protections, denigration of objective factual analysis, and dismissal of the rights of individuals in order to achieve a "greater good" are all hall marks of the dynamics and psychology of a mob. These dynamics are now underway in the United States of America.


* A half century later, the Supreme Court abolished the "separate but equal" concept in Brown v. Board of Education, declaring it to be in violation of the Constitution. However, even in the Brown decision, the Court bowed down to white Southern mobs by refusing to require immediate desegregation of public schools and instead said desegregation should occur "with all deliberate speed" -- weasel words the Court would quickly and deeply regret. Interpreting this phrase as a sign of weakness (which it was), the white Southern mobs and their white elected officials argued for the next 20 years that "with all deliberate speed" could also mean doing nothing at all. In Cooper v. Aaron, the State of Arkansas argued to the Court that because white mobs had pledge to take up arms against desegregation, the Court should allow segregation to continue indefinitely despite the Court's ruling that it was unconstitutional. In this landmark case, the Attorney General of Arkansas actually asked the Supreme Court in oral argument to suspend the US Constitution in Arkansas solely because violent white mobs demanded it.

** I discovered an example of #3 last week when I told a person that the phrase "Islamofascism" to describe the diffuse terrorist group al Qaeda is completely inconsistent with the definition of "fascism" and supplied that person with several dictionary and encyclopedia definitions of the word. The person replied: "That is your definition -- I have my own."

*** The classic and most sick application of "Don't Confuse Me With the Facts" was promulgated during the 80 year epidemic of lynchings of black American citizens by white American citizens in the United States from after the Civil War up to World War II. In nearly all of these instances, the white mobs who hung, tortured and burned to death black American citizens openly reasoned that if even if the black American man they were killing was innocent of the crime for which they were seeking vengeance, he would probably have done it eventually, had probably done it in the past, and if neither, his death would "send a message to any nigger who might think of doing it," or "this one nigger here won't never do it again."

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