The Great Looting: A Post-America Obituary on the Road to Revolution
by Kevin D. Annett
The wealthy parasites, the pimps, the criminals had all fled like drowning rats to Havana’s docks as the insurgents approached the capital. But ahead of them the dictator Batista had already left the country with the entire Cuban treasury in his pockets, billions of pesos stolen from the people. In their final days the rulers of the collapsing order showed their true face.– Che Guevara, Cuban revolutionary, 1965
Trump’s latest tax cuts for the super rich will kill at least ten thousand poor Americans every year by taking away what little health insurance they have. – former Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, December 4, 2017
O, let America be America again! The land that never has been and yet must be: the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine: the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s: the ones who made America, whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, must bring back our mighty dream again. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, we must take back our land again! O yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me; and yet I swear this oath: America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, the rape and rot of graft and stealth and lies, We the People must redeem the land, the mines, the plants, the rivers and the endless plain: and make America again. – Langston Hughes, Let America be America Again, 1938
The other day an unusually astute media pundit remarked that no-one seemed to be in charge in Washington anymore. The nation’s capital, he observed, felt like “the last day of a massive closing-out sale, where everything has to go”.
It should be mundanely self-evident by now that the wealth of America is being systematically looted by a tiny class of super-rich traitors, epitomized by the felonious psychopath in the White House who calls himself a President. This past week the Republicans cut taxes to the rich and thereby increased the national deficit by over a trillion dollars: a loss that will be shouldered by already-crushed low income Americans. The fact that Mr. Trump and all the other billionaries in his cabinet will personally profit from their tax bill by soaking the nation and killing low income Americans doesn’t seem to bother many of those same victimized poor folks who suicidally voted for him, any more than does the “President’s” treasonous philandering with foreign powers.
That said, the media pundit’s sage observation about the “closing out sale” state of the United States government was accompanied by the comment that even to the Republicans, Donald Trump is nothing more than a convenient figure head these days, “someone to sign the bills and not do anything too stupid”, in his words. Almost like a dictator about to pack up and leave a sinking and looted ship, he may have added.
In fact, it isn’t just America’s wealth and its people that are being ravaged, but the government itself. Since his election, Trump and his ever-shrinking circle of minions have systematically dismantled the Justice and State Departments and prevented them from operating. All of the professional diplomats and civil servants – and anyone who comes close to uncovering Trump’s own criminal activities – have been purged. According to one of the cashiered State Department officials, “The White House seems intent on destroying the fabric of effective and responsible government in a manner that can only benefit our enemies.” (October 12, 2017)
Like Russia and China, perhaps?
Of course, as every honest soul soon discovers, one’s real enemy is not in some far-off land but right at home, and often masquerading under a cloak of patriotism. But even that garb has been stripped from the Trump administration nowadays as its putrid “rich guys only” agenda stands so naked and exposed that hopefully even the stupid can’t ignore it.
The issue now is what is to be done about it.
There’s a woman in her seventies named Judy Wanchisn who may have an answer. She lives in the heartland of the nation, in a small pastoral community of seven hundred people called Grant Township, Pennsylvania. Since October of 2012, she and her family and friends have stood up to a giant corporation and its friends in government that want to inject toxic fracking waste water into their land. But the Grant folks have done so with a weapon as potent as the one that fusiladed British troops at Concord and Lexington in 1775: a proclamation of community self-governance. In a word, they are reclaiming their country from the corporations that run it.
The battle Judy and the others face is not really the obvious one, against the combined money and power of business and government, and their lackey courts. It’s in truth a fight for an idea, against the dead weight of conformity and programmed subservience that passes for “democracy” in a corporatized world. That idea formed the American Republic and has persisted for over two centuries: namely, that people’s inborn right to govern themselves under their own laws outweighs all other interests and statutes. It’s an idea as revolutionary and disruptive now, and as necessary, as it was in 1776.
On whatever front the American people and every other people fight for justice and survival today, this single idea always raises its head. Who will rule, the people or an elite? This issue can easily be forgotten or lost in the stream of legalese and arbitrary authority that descends the moment that vested interests are challenged. But any struggle eventually faces that issue, which is one of power and who will wield it.
Judy Wanchisn and her neighbours in Grant Township have found this out the hard way. And the repressive Corporatocracy that considers itself the law has been their best teacher.
“Everything is the opposite of the way it should be now” Judy Wanchisn told me the first time we spoke. “The Environmental Protection people are helping the company destroy our land and our water. The courts are denying us our constitutional rights and our right to life. All we’re doing is trying to remain free Americans who are defending their homes.”
Judy is a stubbornly free woman. Spearheading the Grant Township resistance, she didn’t back down to Pennsylvania state court orders that allowed the company, Pennsylvania General Energy (PGE), to poison her home. In response, Judy, her daughter Stacy and their neighbours issued a local Home Rule Charter that nullified the court order and not only banned any fracking deposits but devolved political power to their township, making them self-governing. As a sovereign authority, their Township then legalized civil disobedience to preserve the land and recognized the rights of nature and its creatures under the law.
A shot heard ’round the world, indeed! The Grant Township action has caught the imagination of many others. Already, inspired by the example of the Pennsylvanians, local townships in Maine, Michigan and Colorado are passing similar Home Rule Charters to empower them to wage their own local battles against predatory corporations. The Grant Township’s establishment of direct democracy especially gained traction after they gained coverage in the Rolling Stone magazine in May of this year.(http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-a-small-town-is-standing-up-to-fracking-w482577 )
History shows us how the repercussion of a single act can eventually shake down the strongest tower of oppression, but only if it is learned from and generalized by many others. Judy Wanchisn and her neighbors have made such an act. The Grant Township seizure of its own self-governance is a genuine working answer to the corporate tyranny of Donald Trump and his ilk that has subverted the American Republic. America must be created again from its grassroots. But that can only be done by its citizens relearning freedom and the courage to reclaim what has been taken from them: their personal and communal liberty, which is our real nation’s very heart and soul.
This new but very familiar American Revolution is greater than politics and the sordid bi-polar two-partyism that’s run by the same wealthy masters. As Judy Wanchisn points out, their self-governance Charter was approved by more than 80% of the people in their community, both Democrats and Republicans. The usual divide and conquer malaise by which the few rule the many has been shattered by the people of Grant Township. And thus armed, everything becomes possible for them.
The waters are rising and many of us have already gone under. But as long as the idea and the spirit of independence and freedom remains so too will our heartland. As John Adams said in 1781, the Revolution dwelt first in the hearts and minds of the people before the first shot was ever fired. So too today. A new fire is spreading in our people, unseen by official politicians and media alike. Like the Great Spiritual Awakening of the 1740’s that inwardly freed our ancestors and allowed them to launch their political revolution, a new light has appeared in the very midst of our gloom. It is carried and found in the witness of the Judy Wanchisns of America. Our 1776 is approaching once again, even more quickly than we realize. In fact it has already arrived.
To arms, then, citizens. In your own communities, take back the law, the government, and the land. You carry within you all that you need to reclaim the Republic of America, and establish it once again.