We saw Hamilton the other night. It was as good as everyone said it was. It was also disturbingly relevant. If you closed your eyes, straightened out the language, and listened carefully the arguments could have been yesterday’s news–or tomorrow’s. The themes were the same: agrarian vs. urban, income inequality, isolationism vs. globalism, Congressional vs. Executive branch powers, and more. I had several thoughts. One was, “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Santayana.
I wrote two books over the last three years. Both were on politics. Their themes were that this nation of ours has been fighting the same political bug-a-boos for 30 years. Hamilton made me realize that the same political threads of this nation, one that says Republic and one that says Democracy, stretch not 30 years but nearly 30 decades! An example: in a famous bru-ha-ha during the T. Roosevelt administration, the Congress told Roosevelt he didn’t have the authority to send the navy to far away places like the Pacific. Roosevelt sent the navy anyway and told Congress if he wanted it back they’d best appropriate the money to bring it back. They did by the way.
But for some relatively minor squabbles like the one over the navy, which was of course not about the navy but about constitutional powers, and one major one, the civil war, the country has weaved its way between these constitutional boulders without doing much harm to itself. It’s pretty much “same ****, different day.” But way back when news traveled by speed of horse or later speed of telegram and then speed of radio waves folks sat around thinking, talking, jawing, sometimes spittin’ tobacco juice while coming to a decision. Then came television and the timeline tightened. Pundits were jawing at you so fast you could hardly do your own thinking, or spitting. Decisions were made a lot more quickly with a lot less input. And here we are. Welcome.
When historians a hundred years from now or archeologists 500 years from now look at this period in American history they will deduce that we were a nation of very smart machines and very stupid people. They will explore these facts: the government has been partially shut for almost a month (does that say something about government…?). Over 800,000 moms, dads, and assorted other folks are out of work. Well, that’s wrong. They are not out of work they are out of pay. Most of them faithfully and loyally continue to work.
What got us here is a complicated psycho-political set of fears about immigration that is belied by the facts. One set of facts is that year by year fewer and fewer immigrants are crossing our southern border. Another is that $5.6 billion dollars will not build enough of a barrier to stop them. Finally, the vast majority of crime in this country is committed by the people of this country, not those who crossed the border illegally to get here.
We need to stop a moment and look at a subset of facts. One is that 5.6 billion dollars won’t build nearly enough wall. Another is a lot of the wall would have to be built across private property meaning years of hugely expensive eminent domain fights in the courts resulting in huge payouts running the cost up to close to an estimated 100 billion dollars and a timeline of who knows how long to build.
Another was the stunning display of a section of the concrete wall, which has politically morphed into a steel barrier, being cut by a saw bought at a hardware store. So the saving grace of that “wall” would be that the immigrants were too poor or too weak to have a chain saw when they got to the wall, barrier, whatever. If not they’d slice and dice there way right into the old ole USA.
Two political slogans come to mind. “Is this any way to run an airline (substitute government)?” The other is, “Would you buy a used car from this man (substitute wall)?”
So here we are at the fork in the road that Yogi said to take when we got there. My opinion as a political scientist is that if we erased the “D’s” and “R’s” from the players names, we’d decide in a heartbeat that people need to eat, people need job satisfaction, and something terrible, probably in the air, is going to happen before this is over. The answer is..? We open the government and then negotiate a compromise. But alas we seem to be plumb out of erasers.
While we’re at it we could muzzle Ann Coulter, Mr. Double Dittos, and their like who are goading the President to go down with the ship or in this case the wall. Of course, the Ann Coulter crowd is making millions of dollars a year and don’t have the worries of paying the rent, buying the groceries, putting gas in the car. Picky, picky points, I know.
Wasn’t it Chicken Little upon discerning that the sky was falling who ran in circles crying, “What to do? What to do?” (Don’t hold me to that one.) It’s a good question though.
In Hamilton there was a solution, though granted it didn’t make much sense or solve many problems. Walk 10 paces and shoot at the other guy. Maybe the fork in the road takes us to the park where we settle this with a duel. It won’t make much sense. It won’t solve many problems. But it is an act with finality–at least from my (irritated) perspective.
Deciding that Rome was burning and ecology had to wait, Bill Gralnick is back to his curmudgeonly commentary of politics. His Sunday blog can be found on his website: http://www.atleastfrommyperspective.net or at http://www.atleastfrommyperspectiveblog.wordpress.com
The aforementioned books are “Mirth, Wind, and Ire–Essays on the Contemporary Political and Social Scene with A Little Humor Thrown In http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/692523
More Mirth, Wind and Ire…” http://www.smashword.com/books/view/758411
Like Chicken Little, Bill has his own admonition: “Read! It’s good for both of us.