Sunday, September 21, 2008

Liberty Once Lost.

I have just finished reading Naomi Wolfe’s The End of America, Letter of Warning to A Young Patriot which landed the NY Times bestseller’s list in the fall of 2007. I do admire the winsome feminist and social critic, but the arguments in her book failed to excite me. And I bet it would lull progressive thinkers in the Philippines to sleep. 

In The End of America, purposely made to look reminiscent of Thomas Paine's pamphleteering, Naomi Wolfe argues that recent history has profound lessons for those in the US today. It outlines how fascist, totalitarian, and other repressive leaders seize and maintain power, in what were once democracies. She points to a predictive blue print that all would-be dictators put to action in order to crush a democracy. She discusses the ten steps here. Now, she is so clever, she speaks and writes beautifully. But her thesis is so old, at least to us in US-neo-colonial Philippines.

For what is so jolting about something that has echoed through history over and over again? And I am really appalled not at the ten steps or that it is now underway in the US -- but that Wolf, a Rhodes scholar who went to post-grad at Oxford shouted eureka on the tactical blueprint only recently, as in, only in the year 2006, in the era of Mark Zuckerberg and Tom of Myspacelandia. Not that she is late. But that it got me into thinking, about how little attention indeed, American society has given to the affairs of nations, even those who "would be brothers".

In the Philippines, thinkers and critics a good many number of whom were educated in my school have so long ago "decoded" the secret codes of despots. No matter if we did not sum it up as ten steps like a "fascist for dummies". But in Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler, Pinochet, Mao Ze Dong -- they were all there, as history begging not to be repeated.

And it is no news to us -- the United States, defender of the Free World is believed to have aided dictatorships in many countries throughout history. What could be more undemocratic than to use the law to subvert the rule of law? But we have seen that happen . The outcry in the Philippines until the dictatorship was toppled in the late 80’s was “down with US-Marcos Fascist Regime”. And I have to say, there was no better student of Mussolini than Marcos. And despite our best and brightest men and women, who sounded the alarm, Ferdinand Marcos -- once thought to be the leader to make our nation great again -- put the Philippines under martial rule thirty-six years ago today, September 21.

America -- bastion of pure democracy where the Founding Fathers, original Philadelphia 76ers have proclaimed liberty not just for the New World but for all nations. Has it been so pampered, so assured of freedom, that it has gotten lazy on the very principles that made it a great nation? Now Naomi Wolf has just shouted "I found it!", on how democracies come crashing down. The blue print is predictive, sure. Though our leaders and thinkers knew all the facts-- were they able to prevent our country from plunging into the dark years of martial law? Surely not, and you tell me why.

Now, they think Bush is doing this? Like he was destined, in a bible -truth sort of way, to be a despot? Truth be told, pure liberty has been tainted long before him. You think a vote for Obama or Mc Cain will prevent the End of America if it is really underway? I make a reference to John Adams who warned -- liberty, once lost, is lost forever. But like anything dear that you've lost, it lives within your heart. And then you bravely go on, and do your best to navigate a complex and perilous world. No, we no longer can restore pure liberty by simply exhorting democratic rhetorics, no matter how well-intentioned. It is that proverbial long road with the end nowhere in sight. And whoever has got it figured probably need to go write a better book.

The Founding Fathers have set the principles in place. 
But sadly, all these  precepts laid down to abate  man's excesses was never enough to withstand the complexities of an imperfect world -- of the never-ending tension between good and evil and the supposed triumph of the will.

Perhaps the question is not: "why is Bush so evil or how could Karl Rove and other criminals in the White House do this to us?" The question is, " since there is a blueprint and yes, we have seen it re-cur throughout history, then why is man so vulnerable to the same attacks again and again?"

During the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, there was a story told of a young American who posed a question to John Adams, "Sir, what do we have here? A monarchy, or a republic?" . To which the patriot replied, " A republic, son. If you can keep it."

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