-By Richard (RJ) Eskow
July 3, 2011- This is the age of corporatized politics. That means we may admire our leaders, but we can't depend on them. We're paying the price for Thomas Jefferson's unfulfilled desire to "crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
This July 4th, politics is too important to be left to the politicians. The stakes are too high and the system is too broken. Citizen action is everyone's job now, and it will be as long as our political debate focuses on misplaced austerity and ignores the majority's yearning for jobs, growth, and those things that government does best.
But the problem isn't just with politicians, or even the system. The problem is dependence itself.
We call it "Independence Day." But the British didn't leave on July 4, 1776. The war lasted until September 3, 1783, when the Treaty of Paris was signed. July 4th is the day we declared ourselves independent. Victory came with the recognition that freedom is our natural condition. Our country wasn't born with violence, but with the realization that freedom is discovered and claimed, not granted by others. That's why we celebrate July 4, not September 3, as our Day of Independence.
That will disappoint the history-challenged right-wingers whose patriotic posturing is limited to speaking in their odd pseudo-military lingo, that echolalic Esperanto for fantasy revolutionaries. They don't realize that war is a tactic, not a system of values. And "independence"? Today's "Tea Party" wasn't named for the tea-dumping patriots of Boston, but for some self-entitled commodities traders shrieking "losers!" on cable television. They were sneering at struggling homeowners, mocking middle-class people like the Tea Partiers themselves. And they were enraged at the idea that ordinary families might be rescued the same way their own financier class had been rescued.
They won. Nobody’s rescued the middle class yet. Unlike them, the Founders believed in common purpose. They shared George Washington's goal of "protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions." They understood what conservatives don't: There's a difference between declaring independence and telling people they're on their own.
When Sarah Palin tells her followers to "RELOAD!” she has no idea where to aim. When Michele Bachmann says she wants people to be "armed and dangerous," she doesn't understand who or what would be endangered. When John Stossel "jokes" about hanging Barney Frank in effigy, he's putting reason (and the tattered shreds of his own reputation) in the noose generals once used for hanging enemies – and patriots like Nathan Hale.
At least their mangling of Revolutionary War history gave us a great chuckle, when Keith Olbermann said Sarah Palin thought Paul Revere was "warning the British Invasion that kicks keep getting harder to find." Conservatives adopt the Revolution's pose and forget its principles. They're dress-up generals in a make-believe war, corporate servants who use the rhetoric of yesterday's revolution to serve today's Redcoats.
We fought for the principles of self-representation and economic freedom. Those principles are under attack again today. But there's no place for rhetorical violence (or any other kind) in today's debate. When corporations intimidate us with economic pressure and distorted information, the best responses are communication and mobilization.
We resisted Britain's state-sanctioned monopolies in 1776. Today's government-sanctioned corporations hang out on Wall Street, not by the chartered Thames. The spirit of the East India Company lives in the five banks which now control nearly 96% of the derivatives market in this country. Our financial oligarchs receive Treasury Department money, Federal Reserve giveaways, and get-out-of-jail-free cards for a corporate crime wave that would make Al Capone blush.
Some of our ancestors came to this country as slaves or indentured servants. The slaves were freed in body but their descendants' economic freedom is not yet fully won. Unemployment's much worse for African Americans. Infant mortality rates are 2.5 times higher than they are for whites and life expectancy is years shorter. Indentured servitude's making a comeback, too. In colonial days people signed away years of freedom for the "loan" of ship's passage to America, where they were sold to bidders for a period of bondage. If only Wall Street had existed then! Imagine the money Goldman Sachs could have made on selling "IBS's" – "indenture-backed securities."
And then shorting them, of course.
Today’s borrowers aren’t exactly indentured servants, but their contract terms can be unilaterally changed and their debts sold and resold without notice. Their homes may be foreclosed by unknown lenders for violating terms they didn't know existed. If they resist paying unfair penalties the full weight of the law will be brought down on them (but not the banks.) Bad credit may leave them unable to borrow money, rent a home, or even find a job.