David Rodeback's Blog
Local Politics and Culture, National Politics,
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Trickle-Down, Trickle-Up, Pavlik Morozov, and Other Loose Ends
We're still talking about tyranny, not race or party. I'll explain why I think a president who deserves to be impeached shouldn't be, tell you more about the legend of Pavlik Morozov, and place some blame elsewhere than the cornerless office where the buck used to stop.
Last time, I called President Obama a tyrant -- not the worst tyrant in history or even in this young century, but a tyrant nonetheless. I mentioned some of a tyrant's favorite tactics, which happen to be among the president's favorite tactics, too.
Today I'll tie up some loose ends.
Race Is Irrelevant Here
Before you call me a racist for daring to criticize our president, allow me to insist that I don't care about the color of his skin, his gender, his age, his sexual orientation, his hairline, his party affiliation, or -- in this context -- the authenticity of his Hawaii birth certficate. I don't care about his religion, his golf handicap, his grades at Harvard (which we're not allowed to know anyway), or how much of his books he really wrote himself.
I am aware of the historical significance of a self-identified African-American being elected president of the United States. I think it's wonderful that the possibility exists, though I would have hoped for such a historic first to involve politics more congenial to my own. (I hope the same for our first female president; let her be an American Margaret Thatcher, not a Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Michele Bachmann, or Sarah Palin.) Nor do I blame the tyranny of our time solely on President; he may be more of a symptom than he is the disease itself.
By comparison, I share race, gender, and religious affiliation with Senator Harry Reid, but I decry him as a tyrant, too.
Here is the point of this tangent: Please don't be so lazy, partisan, or race-obsessed as to dismiss serious criticism of President Obama as motivated by racism. If the President himself is willing to admit publicly that criticism of him isn't because of his race, maybe it's time to stop obstructing political debate with promiscuous charges of racism. It's not about race.
Trickle-Down and Trickle-Up
. . . Which bring us to another essential point. It's not just a matter of a nation (and a bureaucracy) full of nice, freedom-loving people, who, to their misfortune, are led by a tyrant (or a small group of tyrants). The presence of a tyrant at the head gives license to tyrannical instincts at lower levels of government. Call it trickle-down tyranny, if you will.
Sometimes the courts step in, as when a federal appeals court recently declared that the (now-former) head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cannot blatantly and systematically ignore the law. But the courts can't undo everything; their processes are slow, and while they consider one abuse, a thousand more are in process.
Meanwhile, stories like these (in the Washington Post) are becoming routine -- and no, I don't blame them on President Obama personally:
Then there's the recent account (which I didn't find at WaPo), of a seven-year-old boy who was suspended for pretending pencil was a gun and making gun noises. He promises not to pretend to play with guns at school in the future.
It's not all about guns. There's the New York City mayor who thinks he can unilaterally forbid the sale of sugary drinks over a certain size. And have we already forgotten the story of two Utah schools being fined large amounts of money by a federal agency last year, for the heinous crime of leaving a vending machine turned on somewhere in the school during lunch?
It all fits together, and tyranny trickles up as freely as it trickles down. The tyrant at the top was elected and reelected by masses of people who don't seem very bothered by tyranny until it attacks them personally, so in a sense the tyranny is a grass-roots phenomenon, and the trickle-up creates the climate for the trickle-down.
Congress and ObamaCare
Last time I mentioned ObamaCare as an example of the president's use of a tyrant's tactics. But there's more, which doesn't directly involve the president. ObamaCare was forced through Congress by tyrannical means -- including denying the people and their representatives adequate time to read and study the bill before requiring a vote. The Democrats in Congress were so aggressively partisan in their approach that they were willing to be tyrants to win the day -- but that's on them, not the president. And it's on us, too, for electing them and reelecting them.
I think President Obama has done far more than enough to deserve to be impeached, tried, convicted, deposed, and possibly even imprisoned. If I thought that would solve the problem, I'd advocate it. But it won't. It would just get us a President Biden, who would be a less efficient, more buffoonish tyrant among tyrants. Does anyone really want that?
Besides that, the president's tyranny has a certain legitimacy. I think his tyrannical inclinations were evident before his election in 2008, but let's cut the low-information voter some slack here and let him plead historical euphoria in 2008. By 2012, however, the president's tyrannical inclinations had long since become tyrannical ways . . . and most of the voters either didn't see it, wouldn't see it, didn't care, or actually preferred to reelect a tyrant.
Democracy, they say -- they being H. L. Mencken -- is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
Too bad for the rest of us.
For the rest of this post, let's take a much-needed break from the American tyrant who dominates our here-and-now. I won't mention his name again here, though I cannot claim the rest of this will be completely irrelevant to him.
I mentioned Pavlik Morozov last time, though not by name. He supposedly was a Soviet boy who turned in his father for secretly opposing Stalin's collectivation, leading to his father's imprisonment and death. Angry relatives supposedly killed Pavlik for his treachery. The Soviet government turned him into an icon, a great hero, a martyr. Here's the tricky part: There is now serious doubt as to the truth of nearly every significant part of the Pavlik Morozov story.
This doesn't mitigate the tyranny; it exposes it. A tyrant doesn't care what the truth is. He will distort or invent whatever is necessary, to produce a story that is useful to manipulate the people. The Soviet tyrants needed a martyr for schoolchildren to sing about, for their filmmakers to make movies about, for their storytellers to tell stories about. The story served the regime by lionizing personal treachery in service of the regime and subordinating family ties to the state. The least important detail of the whole picture, in a tyrant's view, is whether the story is true or not.
I'm Not Saying This is How the End Game Will Look, But It's a Good Read
I thought I might recommend for your reading pleasure a typically long essay Orson Scott Card wrote a few months ago. It's called "Unlikely Events." He calls it "an experiment in fictional thinking." He spins a scenario based on the facts we know -- not saying it will happen, just that it could. Which means that it probably won't. If it helps, try to remember, as you read, that Card is a Democrat.
When you're finished reading this fictional discussion of how an American tyrant president could become tyrant-for-life -- I'm not saying it will happen -- then I have some questions for you. Specifically, they are these: Is there any part of it which could not happen? If there is, why couldn't it?
Elevate a tyrant to office and leave him there while he tramples on the institutions which exist to restrain him, and this much is certain: Some tyrannical things will happen. Card's scenario probably will not, but some tyrannical things will happen. Ignorance of history, willful or otherwise, confers no immunity.
Copyright 2013 by David Rodeback.