The Oregon tragi-comedy has left one dead, one injured, six arrested, some guys in Michigan trying to fix a water system with their guns, and millions of Americans deprived of intelligent television content for weeks.
I know that people outside the Occupy movement, in particular those employed by CNN, had a hard time telling what we wanted, but I myself have had a hard time telling what the Nevadans and others in Oregon wanted.
They demanded justice on behalf of people who said they’d never wanted the help. They demanded a small government willing to do them big favors. They wanted a fight to the death but didn’t want to hurt anyone.
Really, the clearest answer was that they wanted to save the Constitution.
But how? Which bit? From whom? When we in Occupy demanded taxation of billionaires and cuts to the military, the CNN employees grabbed their heads and moaned in pain, insisting that we must settle on One Single Demand or their brains would explode.
Well, the Constitution has seven articles and twenty-seven amendments. That’s way too many for an effective peaceful gun battle.
And the Constitution creates a big, distant, tax-raising government. Why wouldn’t these guys get into shoot-outs for the Articles of Confederation? Weren’t those more to their taste and only slightly more ancient and irrelevant than the Constitution?
No, they insisted that it was always the Constitution for which they were suffering along on donated snacks and anger. But which part? Surely not the First Amendment and its silly right to peaceably assemble.
The Second Amendment? But if you’ve been permitted to own piles of guns, can you really propose to get into a fight with those guns over your demand to be allowed to have those guns — much less to have them for a well-regulated militia? Well-regulated militias remember to bring snacks.
The Third Amendment? No. It’s a bit too awkward to take over buildings without the consent of the owner in order to Youtube to the death for the right never to have fighters move into anywhere without the consent of the owner.
And they didn’t name any of these amendments. They named the Constitution.
Why? Here’s an ancient and anti-democratic document produced by an elitist federal government that had redirected popular anger toward a foreign country. It condoned slavery and facilitated genocide and conquest through expansion to the west. As a contemporary document in 2016 it’s an embarrassing vestige from a long-gone epoch. It provides no environmental protections, and no human protections — no rights to any basic necessities of life.
But maybe that’s part of the attraction. The Constitution may have been a step toward bigger government, but it was created in an age of much smaller government, of great resistance to any standing army, of no income taxes, of no draft, of no department of education, of no social safety net even on the miserable level of the 21st century United States.
The Constitution created a rather unrepresentative legislature, with a weak executive. It’s been made almost completely unrepresentative, while its executive has been made virtually a king, and its Supreme Court has been given the power to rewrite the Constitution as it sees fit.
The U.S. government and the U.S. nation bear little similarity to the U.S. Constitution or the land in which it was written. And the U.S. government of today is Kafkan in its frustrating coldness, incompetence, and almost complete corruption. Isn’t that what it comes down to? The government taxes you, gives you almost nothing in return, and then spends all your money teaching you by example that the way to solve problems is to act tough, take a stand, move into a new territory and declare “mission accomplished” — no need to really have a thought-out plan, just have lots and lots of weaponry and everything will be fine. The locals will welcome you as liberators.
Maybe the late militia should have called itself the Unknown Unknowns.