Today’s open thread about the death of the Constitution. Tell us your story.

Summary:  A quick look at our government’s latest blows on the Constitution, kicking the corpse.  Please post your reactions to this news, and how the people you know see the Republic’s death.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”
— Attributed to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Since 4 July 2006 I have warned that the Republic was dying, although I said we could still save it. Until this year the most common responses in comments were a combination of ridicule and disagreement. But the stream of grim news has eroded away people’s faith in the Republic’s strong foundations, and the comments have grown darker.

This year the evidence about the Constitution’s death has flowed in like the tide. Look at this week’s news, and despair for the Republic:

Our reaction to this news, like the many similar stories before these, provides the strongest evidence not just that the Republic lies near death — but that it dies of neglect.  Our neglect. We’ve abandoned it, as the love of liberty and self-government no longer resides in our hearts, minds, and souls.

Today let’s hear your testimony. If you have not yet done so, please read those two articles. Tell us your reaction. How did you feel after doing so?  What will you do now? How do those around you react to this news — friends, relatives, coworkers, fellow parishioners?


The future of America

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.”
— Marcus Aurelius, in the movie “Gladiator” (2000)

An optimistic vision appears as conclusion to Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006.  “The predominate reaction of the Romans to the death of the Republic was resignation, as seen in the popular philosophies of the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity.  How will Americans react when they realize that the Constitution has died?  Reform, rebellion, or resignation?”

As I watch America die the death of a thousand cuts,  I wonder if we are capable of anything but resignation. Passivity. Perhaps we are sheep, and that America will die with us. Its rebirth may occur only with another generation. And the history books will paint an unpleasant but accurate picture of us.

A last note: even if the Second Republic is beyond saving (I’m not convinced), the Third Republic lies in our future.

For More Information

  1. Conservatives tells us not to worry about the Constitution’s death, 23 March 2011
  2. RIP, Constitution. The Second Republic died this week. Of course, we don’t care (that’s why it died)., 5 December 2011
  3. “Lawfare” – using the law to undermine the Constitution (a powerful tool in the quiet coup now in progress), 22 December 2011
  4. The Republic has died. Let’s decide how to commemorate those responsible. Post your ideas!, 31 May 2012
  5. More death throes of the Constitution. Nothing remains in the ruins but politics., 20 June 2012


32 thoughts on “Today’s open thread about the death of the Constitution. Tell us your story.”

  1. Those around me react in different ways. Pretty predictable though. The more tribal, less educated are cheering the kills while still hating Obama. They think the kills are happening despite Obama, not because of him even when presented with articles like these. The less tribal, more educated friends react wearily to the news because they are going to vote for Obama and they wish they didn’t have to.

    As for me, I feel ashamed and angry whenever I am confronted with the new policies since 9/11. I especially hate and feel weak when I am at the airport. There is something completely degrading about being told what to do and in fact being afraid of uneducated thugs working for the TSA.

    I am also just ashamed of the policies we have instituted depriving people of their right to trial. It’s so obviously wrong that it’s confusing that we don’t get more protest. The only reason I can think of is people are completely tribal, have no self recollection, and no higher values. We are as base and crass as popular culture suggests.

    1. I forgot to mention that actually, most people I know have not even heard of this at all. If they read or watch the news, it centers around pop culture or their specific interests.

    2. This is my experience as well, most people are simply not in tune or don’t really care what is going on.

      I suspect that they won’t until it is they who are affected by the new status quo. When everyday people are rounded up in the name of these anti-terror measures, you might start to see the average person do something. When its some random person from the middle east with no name and no face and who is labeled a “militant” by the government, it does not really matter to you.

      Perhaps one way to change people’s mind’s about this is to put the names and faces of those innocents killed by drone strikes and secret kill lists. Unfortunately, that might require going to Pakistan and doing some interviews, something that just might get you labeled a terrorist yourself or killed by suspicious Taliban who think you are CIA.

      1. I agree. But this is change from the past. Republics die from neglect, as the spirit of liberty fades in the hearts of its people.

        From another perspective, the Republic dies with each generation, and must be reborn in the hearts of the new generation. Somehow this chain has broken in America. The boomers have failed in their greatest duty to the nation. The task of reforming America passes on to its children.
        Phoenix rising

      1. That was my mistake, violating my standard practice of replying to direct quotes. What I meant to say was —

        Dave: “This is my experience as well, most people are simply not in tune or don’t really care what is going on.”

        Me: “I agree. But this is change from the past.” A change from out past of caring about our government, being jealous of our liberty.

  2. The populace is embedded in a consumerism that stokes their ability to be distracted. We are constantly associating as dissociated citizenry. Americans? who are we? Is there any issue, short of terrorist attack that could unite us again? Has it really been 11 years? What has happened since the post Cold War honeymoon (Clinton Administration) ended:

    • We have accepted Executive Branch wars
    • We have embraced social media as our new demographic strata (who are we friends with etc)
    • We have descended into a primarily economic discourse on debating the success of the government and our own lives (are we better off…)
    • We have been buried under a overwhelming amount of instantaneously available punditry via mainstream media
    • We have combated the mainstream media and deflected their validity by circumspect self published egotism (blogging and following blogs)
    • We have retracted out minds about checking and balancing our government and in place participated in many non-government sponsored crusades.

    This trend seems actually all about resignation.

    1. DW:

      Sounds like Fahrenheit 451. As long as the peasants are occupied, no one will notice the drones overhead.

  3. The death of the constitution is one thing. The constitution is a law. The end of the rule of law is something else entirely. When the government refuses to obey the law, we’re back in the jungle, and that’s a whole different ball game.

    The best example of this kind of lawless mindset on the part of people in authority was a statement by the Los Angeles County Sheriff about the proposition to legalize marijuana several years ago. “Even if it passes, it won’t pass,” he said.

    1. “The end of the rule of law is something else entirely.”

      Let me give you some good news! The rule of law has decayed in America. For example, the use of drugs (eg, grass, coke) by our upper classes is de facto legal — but the drug laws provide a useful tool to repress the lower classes.

      But there is always LAW, reborn like a phoenix from ashes. What form will the new law take? Perhaps codifying our existing system, turning de facto into de jurre: a high, middle, and low justice. One for Gates, senior corporate execs, and top professionals (the owners and Inner Party). One for the upper 20% (the Outer Party). One for the other 80% (the proles).

      The Law is not always our friend. It’s not necessarily on our side.
      Phoenix reborn

    2. So would you be willing to do to fight against that outcome? Would you stand as a leader and stop them in the real world? These are questions that we all need to ask ourselves right now, because when the time comes it will be too late to think about what we need to do and something will need to be done. We have to work hard to prevent that situation from manifesting itself, but if it does are you willing to go to jail? Are you willing to risk everything that you have for the sake of what you believe in?

      There comes a point where arguments and reason fail, because people are too afraid and to conditioned to step back and consider all of the facts.

      This is a situation not unlike what we faced as primitives looking over the horizon in search of new lands to feed ourselves and sustain our existence. Perhaps it was a fire, perhaps it was a migration of animals, perhaps it was climate change; but there were times when our ancestors could no longer depend on what they had before, they had to venture out into the unknown in order to survive and prosper and become the people that we are today.

      But in that fear of the unknown it is no longer question of reason it is a question of action. Whatever leaders existed at that time, they were the ones who took the first steps into a virgin land and showed that it was possible to find a new way. It was at that point that others could go forward as well. So my point is that it may come down to a moment of truth where something as simple as refusing to obey an unjust law may be the catalyst that saves this country.

      1. “because people are too afraid and to conditioned to step back and consider all of the facts. This is a situation not unlike what we faced as primitives looking over the horizon in search of new lands to feed ourselves and sustain our existence.”

        How many people do you know who are afraid to take political action?

        Comparing our situation to past people facing life-threatening danger is IMO absurd. We might get to the point where opponents of the government need fear a US Gestapo or KGM. But we’re not there yet.

        As an excuse for inaction this is a bit out there, IMO.

    3. I should have explained myself better. What I am arguing is that we still carry our evolutionary baggage with us when it comes to any sort of collective action. If you have ever been in a situation where some task needed to be completed by a group of people, you might notice that everyone will just stand there looking at each other until someone says or does something to deal with the task.

      My point is that leadership has always been important to our species and that most people won’t do anything to challenge the status quo until someone shows them that it can be done through some bold action.

      I’m suggesting this place be a place where such action can be planned and implemented. I think something created by people who frequent this website will be more effective than either the tea party of occupy movement because of your focus on substance and a practical love of this country and its ideals.

  4. “Where now are the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
    Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
    Where is the harp on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
    Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
    They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
    The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
    Who shall gather the smoke of the deadwood burning,
    Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?”

    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

  5. It occurs to me to consider what cases there might be in history where:
    * a population has successfully opposed the will of its rulers (in any matter significant to those rulers)
    * and that population did not first widely endure oppressive, intolerable conditions.

    That is, when have those who rule been made to relinquish their aims by a citizenry that mostly enjoyed at least marginally adequate security and comfort, but opposed the rulers on grounds that their actions were immoral or unjust, or that they would cause harm to future generations?

    No cases come immediately to my mind, but I am not well-learned in history.

    There appears to be some disagreement among our rulers and candidates as to just how many people must have how much left to lose before the system becomes unstable. I doubt that either side will seriously overshoot the mark, though; and if there is some slack to take up, expanding the capacity of prisons never seems to be too difficult. If there are models for real change, I suggest that they would have to be of the sort I described above.

    1. “to just how many people must have how much left to lose before the system becomes unstable”

      That is a common misconception. Well managed oppressive systems, in the sense of extracting resources from the people, are quite stable. Indeed my guess is that they are probably the most common and long-lived systems in Western history.

      Perhaps the most common and stable in all history among large-scale governments around the world.

      Does anyone know of research on this question, or any specific aspect of it?

    1. Seldom if ever. But the people can take them back. Despite Jefferson’s poetry, people have no unalienable rights. From Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

      “… the heroes who signed that great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost.”

      Jefferson himself knew that well:

      “And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
      — Letter to William Stephens Smith (13 November 1787)

    2. “Despite Jefferson’s poetry, people have no unalienable rights.”

      “Unalienable rights” (now usually “inalienable”) is a term of art: Wikipedia. Jefferson declared that some rights are fundamental to the nature of man, and no government which does not respect those rights can be legitimate. Clearly he knew governments can deny such rights; he asserted that, with respect to the colonies, Great Britain was doing just that.

      1. Coises is right, of course. But that level of philosphical detail has been lost as few American’s now understand the foundation on which the Republic rests. With the clarity of hindsight, calling them “unalienable rights” was poltically effective — but with unfortunate long-term effects. That was the point Heinlein was making in 1959. Boom explained this in more detail in his must-read-for-every-American book Closing of the American Mind.

      2. The short version of why founding the Republic on “rights” has not worked out well, from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers:

        “That was the soft spot whcih destroyed what was in many ways an admirable culture … their citizens glorified their mythology of ‘rights’ — and lost track of their duties. No nation, so constituted, can endure.

        This universe consists of paired dualities. What is the converse of auhtority? … Responsibility.

    3. There is a quote in this article about the Finnish school system that stood out to me: “What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success“, Anu Partanen, The Atlantic, 29 December 2011 — “The Scandinavian country is an education superpower because it values equality more than excellence.”

      “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
      — Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education’s Center for International Mobility

      I suggest that it’s accountability that is the flip-side of authority, and that’s our real problem. We have surely seen failures of accountability—Wall Street being an obvious example—but fix that and you still have authorities and accountable subjects.

      Responsibility is a deeper virtue, which is its own converse. This could be rose-colored nostalgia, but it seems to me that we have lost a great deal of our sense of responsibility in the past half-century (I’m 54), and vainly tried to replace it with authority/accountability.

      I don’t know why that is, nor whether to think contemporary politics is a partial cause or merely an effect. Making a similar point:

      “When the great Tao is forgotten,
      Kindness and morality arise.
      When wisdom and intelligence are born,
      The great pretence begins.

      When there is no peace within the family,
      Filial piety and devotion arise.
      When the country is confused and in chaos,
      Loyal ministers appear.”

      — Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, chapter 18

  6. America is not paying attention. We are not using our time to better govern ourselves (as Fabius may put it): “Obama Supporters Actually Hate Obama’s Policies”, We Are Change, 25 October 2012.

  7. The biggest problem in the US is the criminality at its core. It affects and infects everything–gov’t, ccorporate marketing, the media, armed forces, imperialistic hubris and savagery, education, and so on, without excluding the general mentality of its citizenry. The entire affair is rotten to the core. The patient has cancer and leprosy combined. It is ugly, violent, and filthy. Its time is almost up.

    Example below: “Koch Brothers and the Road to ‘Citizens United’“, Greg Palast, The Real News, 29 October 2012 — “When billionaires break the law, they get the law changed”

  8. “A last note: even if the Second Republic is beyond saving (I’m not convinced), the Third Republic lies in our future.”

    How do we know this? There is no reason for assuming a “rebirth,” rather than a simple, final passing away. Personally, I see no foundation whatever for any such rebirth–assuming this would have a decisive value for the world, which is highly doubtful, to say the least–quite the contrary. I think this time is a finale of a world cycle; not the end of the world, but eventually the end of a world.. Mankind at this point is forging its destruction. Only the Transcendent knows what lies beyond the denouement of this period and beyond it.

    This does not mean we should not fight error with truth, out of disinterested love of the Good, but we should be aware of “the signs of the times,” precisely, and realize that in any case the outcome is not really in our hands; we have not written the script.

  9. Uriah Daniel Caudill

    All great civilizations rise and fall old ideas die and new ones are born in it’s place,this has been the case for a thousand years as history can be reviewed,it is up to us as a species to let go of our selfish ways and help pave the way for future generations to come.Humanity must survive if it’s to survive the changes of our future.-Uriah C.

  10. The famous ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle said 3,000 years ago: “The last two virtues left to a dying culture are tolerance and apathy.” That pretty much sums up modern America, in my humble opinion.

    What more needs to be said?

    1. Kaysie,

      It’s an interesting idea, but a fake quote. As I have shown in a small way on the FM website, an astonishingly large fraction of quotes circulated by conservatives are fake.

      As for the substance of the quote — I agree about apathy, but not the “tolerance and apathy”. What dying societies was this true of? Classical Greek or Roman? Austro-Hungarian Empire? Aztec? Confederate?

      Perhaps conservatives might better ponder why they are subject to — and believe — so many fake quotes. It seems a disturbing sign of dysfunctionality.

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