This morning I was having a conversation with my friend Carl at the gym. He asked what I thought about the upcoming Scalito confirmation, perhaps knowing that I would give a somewhat colorful answer. I told Carl that this was not unexpected, and that it was just another nail in the coffin of our national pretense to representative democracy.

I told Carl that our government is not yet a full-blown, brutal totalitarian police state because it does not yet need to be. Between the carrot and the stick, the carrot is currently the stimulus of choice. Indeed, for the vast majority of this country’s history, the carrot has been preferred. The stick has been kept at the ready, of course, usually being wielded against those who would not (or could not be allowed to) go along willingly with the charade. Those who could not be allowed would be indigenous Americans and African-Americans (the latter officially until the late 1960s). Those who would not willingly participate would be such true populist groups and individuals as the Wobblies, socialists, communists, labor groups, civil rights groups, pacifists, anarchists, and other scattered economic and political dissidents. The stick was usually brought down hard on these groups and individuals, usually in the name of fighting ‘communism.’

Today, though, the U.S. lives in at the height of its economic and military power. There is no major international opposition like the USSR to counter or check the reach of the U.S.’s avarice. Though our nation is deeply in debt and dangerously dependent upon an artificially cheap supply of petroleum, you’d never know it from the way the bulk of the population lives. We are currently experiencing the greatest post-industrial gap ever between the wealthy and the rest, and the middle class is shrinking.

Worse yet, the easily exploited spectre of 9/11 has been used to justify the full implementation of a police-state infrastructure. This, I told Carl, is the biggest danger that most of us currently ignore. The carrot is still working, so it is not yet necessary to fully deploy the stick. However, glimpses of things to come were on display at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and in the illegal detainment of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla for roughly three years. I won’t even get into the treatment of foreign nationals, though that does not bode well, either.

To make a long story short, I believe the end of our republic is getting closer. We as citizens have the power to change things at the ballot box, but we’ve long since abdicated that responsibility in favor of the diminishing returns of imperial contraband. We continue to vote for corrupt Democrats and Republicans, because we know that to vote for true progressives (‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’) might mean giving up cheap gasoline, cheap beer, and cheap processed foods. The sad irony is that we’re going to lose these things anyway, and the withdrawal symptoms will only be worse due to our short-sighted selfishness and greed.

I’m really too tired to continue writing about this now, so perhaps I’ll get back to it tomorrow.

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