We're in the midst of the third American Civil War, and democracy is losing
"Now we are engaged in a great civil war...."
So spoke President Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address. But what about now? You say you don't believe a war is waging in this country? To quote a Prohibition Era gangster in Francis Ford Copolla's The Cotton Club, "Then you don't know you already lost the war."
A common misperception is that the American Revolution was waged between the colonists and the British. A new book entitled "Scars of Independence: America's Violent Birth" by German author Holger Hoock presents the Revolution as our country's first civil war. A June 29, 2017, column in the Economist reviewing Hoock's book points out that battles such as the one at King's Mountain in South Carolina have been portrayed as patriots fighting off "invaders." In fact, the only foreigner at the battle was a single British participant, a Scottish militia commander. The Economist calls the battle "the war's largest all-American fight."
What if they held a war and didn't bother to tell anyone about it? Even worse, what if America lost the war but we didn't find out until after the enemy had dismantled the last vestige of our democracy?
Know your enemy: The 'Grand Old Potentates'
Cyberespionage and electronic warfare are pervasive and unending, just like George Orwell predicted, in a way, in 1948. The only Constitutional amendment still being protected is the Second. As I wrote in the December 6, 2016, Weekly, the rich white men who run everything are coming after our right to vote. The enemy that has destroyed our republic and made us all subjects of a fascist regime is the Fortune 500, under the guise of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party is doing their corporate overlords' bidding by gutting free speech protections. The elimination of net neutrality gives the loudest voice to the richest and silences the poor. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Corynne McSherry explains in a June 22, 2017, article that the internet would not be possible without "the existence of open communications protocols that let us innovate without having to ask permission from any company or government."
The killers of democracy are passing laws that restrict the right to protest. In a June 20, 2017, article, the Daily Beast's Bennett Girshman writes that Republican legislators in 20 states have passed or introduced laws designed to restrain free speech. Among other speech-chilling methods, the laws criminalize the wearing of masks during protests, prohibit the heckling of public officials, seize the assets of people involved in protests that turn violent, and charge protesters for the cost of policing protests. Where have you gone, prior restraint?
State-sanctioned Christianity on the rise, search protections on the wane
The traditional separation of church and state continues to erode, as shown by the recent Supreme Court decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (pdf). Bloomberg View's Noah Feldman writes in a June 26, 2017, article, "Somewhere, James Madison is shaking his head in disbelief."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule later this year on whether the personal data on our cell phones and other electronic devices is protected by the Fourth Amendment. As the New York Times' Adam Liptak writes in a June 5, 2017, article, the decision in Carpenter v. United States turns on the court's interpretation of the Third-Party Doctrine, which states that when a person discloses information to one party, they have waived their right to prevent that party from sharing the information with any third party.
In other words, what you disclose to one person, you disclose to all people. In the 1979 case of Smith v. Maryland, the court ruled that a person has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the telephone numbers they dial because the information was shared voluntarily with the phone company. However, the content of the phone conversation is protected by the Fourth Amendment.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit followed the precedent in Smith to rule that the defendant in Carpenter had no reasonable expectation of privacy in the GPS and other tracking data in his cell phone because he had shared that information with his cell carrier. This information from the defendant's phone was used by the prosecutors to place him at the scene of the crime.
It's going to get worse before it gets better -- possibly a lot worse
The government's attacks on the rights of workers continue, as shown by the recent nomination of a member of the corporation-friendly Federalist Society to fill a vacancy on the National Labor Relations Board. Common Dreams' Jake Johnson writes in a June 28, 2017, article that the nominee, William Emanuel, works for a law firm that represents large corporations. Along with fellow Trump NLRB nominee Marvin Kaplan, the new board is expected to benefit corporations at the expense of workers.
Johnson writes that it will be more difficult for workers to unionize, and worker pay and benefits are expected to go down as a result of the change. Trump's family businesses have been involved in several labor disputes heard by the NLRB. Along with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the "war on unions... will now resume," according to the Nation's Ian Millhiser.
In the aftermath of the horrific killing of two men who came to the defense of women victims of a hate crime on a light-rail train in Portland, Oregon, last month, the militarization of law enforcement came into full view. In a July 3, 2017, article, Muckrock's Grace Raih reports on Operation Columbia Crest, a "multi-agency effort to surveil and contain" protesters.
The operation brought together the Oregon State Police, Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Protective Services, FBI, Homeland Security, and the United States Attorney’s Office. Communications between the groups before and during the protest used the term "COIN," which Raih describes as a military term relating to "counterinsurgency." A letter from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to the city's police chief questioned the "excessive methods" of the police and Homeland Security.
It would appear the police are now part of the military and take orders from the federal government. The loss of fundamental rights and the imposition of de facto martial law indicate that our country has "passed the tipping point where democracy dies," according to AlterNet's Thom Hartman in a July 4, 2017, article. Hartmann quotes former President Jimmy Carter as saying Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United have converted the U.S. into "just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery."
Hartmann concludes that "[t]his is the rule of the rich. It's here. It's now." He quotes Vice President Henry Wallace in a New York Times op-ed from 1944:
"They [the super-wealthy] claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
Small acts can add up to big changes
So we're losing the war. What now? I suggest that we start by giving Trump and his minions the attention they deserve, which is none. For example, don't watch any television shows that give airtime to his lies. Just turn it off. The group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting provides a list of online news sites that FAIR considers reliable. However, FAIR warns that it doesn't endorse the sites. Instead, they are "worth visiting for their critical perspective," or because they are "particularly influential."
The three news outlets I rely on most often didn't make FAIR's list: The Economist, The Guardian, and ProPublica. I subscribe to the first two and have donated (very modestly) to the third. I also recommend frequenting and contributing to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which isn't a news outlet but works like gangbusters to protect the rights of technology users.
Perhaps the best way to fight against the corporate takeover of the United States is by minimizing the amount of money we give to corporations. Shop locally as much as possible, and choose internet services that pledge to respect your privacy, such as Sonic. (I switched to Sonic last March after AT&T lobbied for the end of net neutrality. Now I get much better service at only a slightly higher price.)
As they say, when you do business with local firms, your money sticks around. Payments to small businesses are more likely to stay in the community rather than end up generating interest (and avoiding taxes) in some corporate offshore account, enriching the coffers of people who already have more money than they could ever spend in one lifetime.
The first step in regaining our democracy is to stop providing aid and comfort (and attention and money) to the enemy. Spend wisely!