Thursday, May 18, 2006

Trading Places

It happened this morning.
I was caught by a train,
a slow train, a long train.

And as I sat back in traffic
I watched the businessmen
leave their BMWs and Mercedes behind.

With their ties flying and their coats flapping
they all made a mad dash
to catch the sides of the open boxcars.

And as they scrambled and struggled on,
the hobos who had been riding there
one by one jumped off.

With their bindles over their shoulders,
they all leisurely made their way
to those fine cars that had been left behind.

Much, I supposed, like Satan,
who after such a long fall
claimed his seat in Hell.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Road-Side Crosses

You know those road-side crosses
with the faded, artificial flowers
and the limp mylar balloons
and the rain-soaked teddy bears
marking where people have died?
I steal them.

I used to be sneaky and wait until dark,
but any more I just pull over whenever
and toss them into the back of my truck with the others.

There's a lot back there,
what with the little picket fences
and the decoupaged plaques with the day-glow lettering.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do with them
once my bed is full.

I could just dump them out somewhere
and start over again.

I could try to remember where I got them
and put them back,
as if nothing ever happened.

Or I could just leave them in the truck,
stacked pell-mell as they are.
Who knows, they may come in hand some day
should I drop off behind the wheel.

Fortunately I don't have to make a decision.
Not yet.
My bed's not nearly half-full.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

It Could Never Happen Here...

Mind you, this is just an academic exercise. It begs the question: If you were the President and didn’t want to stop being president—ever—could you? Could you circumvent the current laws and attitudes of the people, the legislature, and the military so that you would be, in essence, President for life, if not longer?

Of course, you would first have to be the President, which means you’d have to be insanely wealthy and have a lot of very powerful friends. Basically, you would have to be a megalomaniac to begin with, which means that ultimately what you’re after is power. The rest is not that hard to imagine. If someone seeks to be the most powerful person on the planet, why would he give it up? (No, that was no an unintentional use of the first person pronoun “he.”) We shouldn’t expect less than that he would do anything to hold on to it. Since when has swearing an oath that you won’t do anything nasty made any difference--especially among politicians?

The assumption is that the best way for a president to take over the country would be to make it look like a good idea. And the best place to start would probably be with fear. It would be necessary to scare the living Shinola out of the general population, the legislature, and if possible, the military—not just the foot soldier, but all the way up. What you want to do is make the people think that things could get worse. The more people have to lose, the more easily they’re manipulated. There are wolves at the door, and if the President goes, then the wolves will get in. The wolves could be anything: communists, terrorists, godless liberals…the list goes on.

It is the sworn duty of every elected official, especially the President, to do everything possible to prevent those evil forces from accomplishing their evil goal. If handing over power at the end of the appointed term would cause the evil-doers to be successful, then it would be in the best interest of the country—indeed, it would be the sworn Constitutional duty of the President—not to give up power. Isn’t logic fun?

Patriotism is always good. You must instill the idea that everything you’re doing is ultimately for the good of the country. Even if you do something boneheaded (or illegal), you can be forgiven, because ultimately you were doing it for the good of the country.

Now polarize your population: You’re either with us, or you’re against us. And if you’re against us, then you’re against the entire country. Dissent, then, is unpatriotic. Even questioning becomes unpatriotic. This is not a time for shades of gray. After all, that’s the sort of thing that gives the enemy the upper hand. We must deal in absolutes. Anything less will seem like indecision to the enemy; it will seem like we lack resolve.

Especially, neutralize organized dissention. There are two ways to do that (at least). One is to control the press. The other is to recognize those who are against you and keep tabs on them. In other words, get them before they get you.

Controlling the major media sources would be difficult. It would first require that most forms of press are held by a few controlling organizations, such as, say, half a dozen companies controlling all major television stations, movie studios, magazines, newspapers, and the Internet. You really wouldn’t want to see that happen. It would be helpful if those organizations were ideologically aligned with you to begin with (say, you were all conservative capitalists…). You can once again use polarization with the press. Claim bias against the “other side” be creating “another side.” Never mind that the truly biased press is your side, and the other side is what was once the legitimate press. Fair play in the media was an outdated concept anyway. It helps that most people don’t want to work that hard to get their information. Heck, most people are completely ignorant of what going on anyway, especially if it’s unpleasant. That’s called complacency. More on that later.

The smaller media outlets would be child’s play, so to speak. It wouldn’t be that difficult to pass a law that says, for national security, there can be no political dissention. Sure, it means giving up one of the most sacred of all Constitutional rights, the freedom of speech, but then, most people don’t use it anyway. Then the government could take over any media that objects. For that matter, they could silence any individual who objects. After all, we don’t want to aid and abet the enemy by letting them think that we’re not unified.

Keeping tabs on everybody is relatively easy. Only a very, very small percent of the population is completely off the grid. Everybody else can be tracked through their cell phones, their social security, their credit cards, their bank accounts, their cable TV, their everything…. It’s amazingly easy. Who cares if it’s legal? As long as it’s for the security of the country, no one will much mind the inconvenience. Besides, you can always say something like, “Only the guilty need worry.” And those who do object are not one of us. Hopefully the public would buy such nonsense. National IDs would be a nice touch.

And then, the government could always change the laws to disappear people. You know, simply label someone as, say, an enemy combatant. Then, by law, you could arrest them. Also, by law, and in the name of national security, you would never have to tell why they’ve gone, when they’re coming back (if ever), or even that they’re gone. By law you would be obligated to say nothing. That’s a law that should scare the living hell out of everybody. But then, luckily, there’s complacency.

Complacency is a lot like the Beatles. Certainly the Beatles had to be talented, and they had to have a vision, but it sure helped that they came along at the right time. Taking over the country would probably work best at a time when the voters are the most complacent. When the average Jose or Shaquita doesn’t even bother to vote. When most people generally ignore politics because, truly, what difference would it make anyway? But certainly, that would never happen.

Diversions are a must. The more things–either real or imagined–to catch the public’s attention, the better. Something that affects everybody, like the weather or gas prices or maybe a convenient war. Preferably something that increases the general fear level.

Shut down the boarders. Using federal troops would be ideal. Ostensibly, this is to keep people out, but ultimately it’s to keep them in. It would also help to distribute the military throughout the country. You don’t have to call out the military to put down civil unrest if the military is already there.

Now all that’s left is to have something big to happen at a crucial time, say, the day or week before an election. Here’s a thought: Wouldn’t it be convenient if terrorists were to blow up both candidates right before the election? Say, at a debate? Nobody’s going to want to go to the polls anyway if we’re under attack. If there are no elections, then there’s no change in the president. Not least. After all, this is not a time for indecision. This is not a time for change. Maybe when the radiation levels fall off... Then, since it is a terrorist attack, it would be perfectly acceptable to shut down all transportation, including highways. National martial law. Suspend freedoms, and never give them back. Once everybody figures out what’s going on, it’s too late.

The government has already limited our ability to fight back, assuming that we would even want to. Sure, there are probably enough guns in the United States for everybody to have two or three each, but how many people have automatic weapons? Armored vehicles? Cruise missiles? Stealth bombers? Sure, there might be a few out there, but it’s not enough. Of course, using the military against our own people would probably not work if they (the soldiers) are thinking, intelligent, compassionate individuals who question the morality of their orders before carrying them out. But more importantly than limiting our ability, they (the government)—or maybe we—have limited our willingness to fight back. To even start the fight to begin with. It goes back to the whole idea of fear. As long as we have something to lose, most people will choose the safer route, which is to sit quietly and hope it doesn’t get any worse. Or at least hope it doesn’t happen to you.

The greatest thing the government would have in its favor would be that nobody wants to believe it. As long as people are willing to believe you won’t do something, then you can. If it can be done, odds are, eventually it will be done. Or maybe not. After all, we can trust our government...

The sad thing is, if such a thing were to happen, it would be such a waste of time. Such struggles, in the long run, will seem petty compared to such things as catastrophic climate change and devastating pandemics. But then, petty politics could be a well planned diversion to take our minds off the inevitable.

But such a thing would never happen. After all, this is just an academic exercise, or maybe the ranting of another paranoid blogger....

Monday, May 15, 2006

So...How Would You Do It?

I've been intrigued lately by the idea of a coup. Not the kind for chickens, but the kind where an illigitimate force in the country seizes power. How could someone pull off a coup in the United States? I mean, would it be possible? Before you just poo-poo such an idea as the paranoid delusions of an insane blogger, consider the prophetic words of Kurt Vonnegut: "The [government's] greatest weapon is their ability to astonish. Nobody is willing to believe that they really can be that gready and that cruel." But what am I saying? No one in our government would ever dream of seizing power. It's just an exercise in what-if. You know...fiction. Remember: We can trust our government. They have never done anything to lose that trust. But, assuming that somebody actually would be willing to seize power...if it were possible...

First of all, how could they justify it...if only to themselves?

Option #1: Screw it. We love power and we can do it, so we did. Of couse, this justification is not very likely. It's not that it wouldn't be the reason for someone to seize power, but if it were, then more than likely they wouldn't be concerned about justifying anything to anybody.

Option #2: God / The voices in my head / My mother / Your name here told me to. This is dangerously close to #1. After all, if God tells you to do something, why would you have to expain it to either believers or non-believers? After all, the believers don't need you to explain, and the non-believers are not going to understand even if you do.

Option #3: Pass a law. Whereas this might work, there are a few major problems with it. One, you have to introduce the law. If the law doesn't pass, then you've tipped your hand. Also, even if it does pass, more than likely all you're going to be able to do is to get rid of the Admendment that says you're limited to two terms. Then you'd still have to campaign for the job, and you could lose. Then, once again, you've tipped your hand. I suppose it might be possible to pass a law making you president for life, if not longer, but good luck with that.

Option #4: My favorite... There are evil forces that exist that are waiting to destroy our great country. It is the sworn duty of every elected official, especially the president, to do everything possible to prevent those evil forces from accomplishing their evil goal. If handing over power at the end of the appointed term would cause those evil-doers to be successful, then it would be in the best interest of the country--indeed, it would be the sworn Constitutional duty of the president--not to give up power. Isn't logic wonderful? You can justify anything.

Option #5: A combination of any of the above.

Do we need and Option #5?

Moving on...

How would they do it?

Outright Force: Probably not a good idea. That would require the loyalty of a lot of troops and a lot of generals and admirals, to say the least. Also, it would probably give every gun toting American an excuse to open fire on the local Post Office. Not that there's anybody in the country that would go nuts with their hunting rifles. If that happened, and even if it didn't, it would probably require that troops are deployed within our own boarders. That would mean that it might be necessary to order our own troops to shoot our own civilians--they're own cousins and brothers-in-law. That has never really worked very well on a large scale. Besides, where would we get the troops? It's not like we have a surplus now. Asking people to volunteer at that point would probably not work very well.

The Threat of Force: Probably not a good idea either, for all of the above reasons. "If you threaten me, by God, you'd better be ready to shoot back...." You get the idea.

Make Everybody Think it's a Good Idea: My favorite. Of course, you're not ever going to make everybody think anything's a good idea, but you don't have to. All you have to do is sell it to the majority. The minority could then either be ignored, or disappeared.

But how could you make the country think it's a good idea, say, if you're the president, and you don't want to go away? How could you make the country agree that choosing somebody else to replace you is not only a bad idea, but would ultimately mean the end of all that is America? And maybe all who are Americans?

Let me think on that for a while. Suggestions?