The most extraordinary single fact about the United States of America is that it was created by men (all those who got acknowledged were men) who labored for a few years over documents that described what the nation would hold dear, what its moral, ethical, and legal guidelines would be, and how it should work politically.
God was not at the Constitutional Convention nor involved in drafting the Declaration of Independence, and religions were mentioned only as institutions and belief systems that were not to be incorporated into how the nation managed matters of peace and war, education, health, crime and punishment, or any other social activity.
The USA was the first major nation to be founded on ideas not deemed to have come from supernatural sources. The one glaring gap in this triumph of secularism was the use of the word “rights” in the Declaration of Independence which concludes that: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
In these words, the mortal men who defined the nation averred that we were created by a Creator, with certain Rights built-in to all of us. They elaborated ten such rights as amendments to the Constitution in 1791, all of them asserting that citizens should enjoy these rights beyond government control, starting with the freedom to choose one’s religion (or none), and to freely express one’s self.
Ever since those founding documents were stamped with red wax, vast numbers of Americans have tried to reinstate God as the boss, but they’ve failed because, by the late 1700s, gods and spirits had lost their fundamental power to science, which had proven itself capable of answering more questions than they could.
But that didn’t end the citizens’ quest for an authority more reassuring and decisive than the never-ending, no-holds barred brawl that is America’s version of democracy.
Trump’s tenure on the presidency and on his chances of being re-elected in 2020, would be vastly more secure if the notion of a President-above-the-law were approved by the Supreme Court.
This week, its President chose a new Supreme Court judge because this guy, Brett Kavanaugh, has made a very prominent argument in favour of “exempting a president — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.” (Kavanaugh’s own words.)
Clearly, Trump’s tenure on the presidency now and on his chances of being re-elected in 2020, would be vastly more secure if this notion of a President-above-the-law were approved by the Supreme Court.
I said that America’s brawling democracy bars no holds, which is a tad hyperbolic, but consider just how easily its rulers have been able to abandon established practices, such as allowing women to decide whether they keep a foetus growing in their uterus, or prohibiting state schools from treating the Biblical tale of creation as fact.
Bigger concepts get decided in America by powerful people who have no rational standing to make those decisions, such as President Bush invading Iraq, or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deciding that Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi must die, or Trump deciding that people from seven countries cannot immigrate to the US because they’re Muslims, or the CIA deciding that it could assassinate leaders of the Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Vietnam, Chile, and other countries, and that it could spend billions of dollars to change other governments and their policies across the globe.
The American people did not agree that the CIA could do almost anything to promote US commercial and political interests, perhaps because they didn’t know it was doing that stuff, but hundreds of the most powerful people in US government—politicians and civil officials—knew about it and approved of this assumption by the agency that it could break laws of other countries, of international agencies such as the United Nations, and of their own USA.
A new book by Jefferson Morley (The Ghost, published here by Scribe) provides a wide and detailed account of the life of America’s most powerful spy boss, named James Jesus Angleton, who created and managed secret and poly-illegal missions across the planet during his tenure as head of “counterintelligence” at the CIA, from the 1950s through the 1970s. Angleton was not a deranged or particularly violent man, not an idiot nor a genius, but he clearly believed it was right for him and his surrogates to wreak all sorts of havoc, because patriotic American citizens would like his decisions while not suffering the stress of knowing about them.
As it turned out, Angleton was turned on by enough members of enough fiefdoms in the wrestling rings of American political power to force him to retire to raising orchids, but only after he changed the world massively for the worse.
I see Trump as man who wants to be a Superman with an even bigger and broader mandate to do whatever he thinks it will take to dismantle the unstable and increasingly unsustainable Democracy-USA.
Angleton’s “career” was enabled by the American citizenry’s yearning for a Superman—someone who can behave like God would if he was real—and I see Trump as a similarly deluded man who wants to be a Superman with an even bigger and broader mandate to do whatever he thinks it will take to dismantle the bush-built, trumped-up, corrupt, unfair, unstable and increasingly unsustainable Democracy-USA.
Trump is replacing America’s rapidly collapsing political system with a house of marked-cards managed by a man whose power resides in a colourful cape and a bank vault full of kryptonite.
Where to now?
Enough members of enough fiefdoms could turn on him before the current uncivil roar becomes a real, new civil war—for example by blocking Kavanaugh from joining the Court—but even if they do, it’s hard to see how the elites can stop this unravelling of America.
Enough voters may elect enough Democrats to Congress in November to shore up the system against the raging bull, but it’s unlikely they’ll have a united front of radical ideas good enough to win the White House come 2020.
Or the civil war, with riots, burning, looting, assassinations, gun battles and so on might quickly flare up and out of anyone’s control.
Or multiple states might essentially secede, creating a Coastal Interstates of America and a Broken Heartland.
We watch from this side of the Pacific, our own ruling class clueless in denial.