By Ray Smock
No, not my mug! There is nothing we can do about that one. It is the coffee mug message that concerns me. “I Love My Country It’s the Government I’m Afraid of!“ I bought this mug at Union Station just blocks from the U. S. Capitol. It was at a vendor stand that in the past would have been filled with patriotic material, U.S. flags, and other emblems of government. You can still find such items in tourist shops in the city, but the new themes have taken on a more jaundiced look at government. Only the first half of this message qualifies as patriotic. The second part is an expression of American paranoia. Maybe to some it is a joke. I am sure it is intended to be one.
In this short message I cannot take up all the varying reasons we might be afraid of government. Some dislike Congress (whether in the hands of Republicans or Democrats). Others find fault with our president and the executive branch. Nobody likes our seemingly permanent wars, but no one has a good way to end them. And I have my favorite fault with government too. It is the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United which opened the floodgates to making government for sale to the highest bidders. I see this as the ultimate form of corruption that the Founders of this nation spent much time discussing when they drafted the Constitution.
The Founders were less worried about the petty corruption of individuals who committed crimes and would be caught and punished for them. There is always this kind of corruption in any government. It needs to be weeded out through existing laws. But what do we do with legalized corruption of government that allows unnamed individuals and political action committees to buy not just a few elections here and there, but the whole government? This kind of corruption could sink this Great Experiment in Representative Democracy. No wonder we are afraid of government.
Here at the Byrd Center we will hold a discussion on this topic on March 3, following the showing of an excellent new documentary film “Of By For” which documents the fears and anxieties of ordinary Americans and provides interesting commentary from members of the media, current and former politicians, and even one lobbyist who has served time for his corruption, Jack Abramoff.
Come by the Byrd Center on the evening of March 3 and join the debate. Or if you like, you can stream the documentary on Amazon Video.