While on the way to get the Friday night pizza and video (what a shamelessly standard life I lead), I realized a few things:

1. I really need to go get some gasoline! I’m running on empty.

No, wait. Start over:

    1. I like being me above all things.
    2. I like being American more than being a partisan of any sort.
    3. I don’t think this is an especilly rare perspective
    4. Nor do I think that folks on the streets are quite ready to sort themselves out into Dems and Pubs
    5. And whichever party has the strongest tendency to go against this trend is the one that’s losing.
    6. How come? Because we don’t live in a single-party regime yet.
    7. And when/if such a circumstance does arise, it would stand for long.
    8. And if I have anything to do with it, it will never happen in the first place.
    9. And I’ve some thoughts on how to do just that…and why we’re going to win this, people…because the Pubs have already lost.
    10. And it occurred to me I ought to share this information with you. 🙂

The thoughts in question: A hierarchy of values, of escalation in response to challenge to those values, and commentary on where and when societies have chosen the right courses — and the wrong ones.

1. The Rule of Law. The commitment to the laws of the land must be beyond reproach. The Republicans themselves claim this: We are a republic, not a democracy. ruled by laws, not by men.

However, this is not about the Republicans; this is about the Commonwealth, and how best secure the Law, and since the GOP isn’t currently interested in that game (See: Abramoff, Bolton, Cunningham, DeLay and the rest of the alphabet soup of corruption), I guess it’s up to us.

For some strange reason, people like rules, like knowing they exist by mutual consent, applied evenly and fairly to everyone, and people have a real problem with differential enforcement. Now, there are rules that are honored more in the breach than in the observance (see: speed limits, not making personal copies in the workplace, scalping tickets, betting on sports events) but flouting the rules is as frowned upon as it gets. You want to save America, start by saving its laws — by honoring them, and making sure that everyone under their authority obeys them, even if they are wartime Presidents.

However, sometimes laws are unfair and unjust, written badly, enforced badly, intended to generate good outcomes for some at the expense of others.

At that point, you gotta ante up, because the stakes are higher. You did not make them that way; they just are.

2. The Rule of Peace. The commitment to the domestic tranquility must be beyond reproach. Never mind what I say; it’s not only in the Constitution, it’s common sense. A government that demonizes dissent, crushes any voice of objection, reaches for the sword first and the pen afterward, and then only to do violence against one’s neighbors, has the greatest security threat of all: its own people.

Ask the government in Beijing what it worries about more: invasion by the United States, or peaceful demonstrations for democracy in Tiananmen Square. The answer is not only logical: it’s history.

Ask the government in Washington what it considers its real enemy: the lack of democracy in the Middle East, or its free and effective practice in Middle America.

But sometimes peaceful participation in electoral processes, and demands for same, aren’t quite it. Sometimes, you gotta go for the justice.

The good news is that there’s a process for justice, too.

3. The Rule of Justice. Destroying someone’s reputation and stripping them of powers, property, privileges and freedom is violence. When done by the law, and in the interest of the common good, it’s also justice. When done outside the law, or at the expense of the common good, it’s just violence.

All governments are empowered to deal justice out on those under their power; a free people binds itself to its own laws by surrendering this authority to the trustees of the commonwealth — the elected officials, and officers of the court appointed in the name of the people.

So long as the laws are honored, the domestic peace is preserved, and the principles of justice upheld, this is not only necessary: it is proper.

When justice is sidestepped, when the powers of state are brought to bear to the disparagement of some and the aggrandizement of others, well, that’s not justice at all.

Once upon a time in America, a set of unjust laws created an untenable situation in which some felt that even more injustice was necessary, while others felt that the laws were intolerable, and simply had to go. People felt so strongly about it that considerations of law, and peace and justice were set aside: Slavery was that compelling an issue. The result was civil war.

A few generations earlier, a similar occasion existed. Some residents of the Colonies decided to write an essay about it.

That letter began with these words: ‘When in the course of human events…’

4. The Rule of Life. Any challenge to the power and authority of a state, no matter how duly constituted, risks a very high probability that someone’s going to get hurt.

For some peculiar reason people who have power, and feel that their laws, their peace of mind and their sense of justice entitle them to it, are strongly motivated to defend it, and they quite often have backup.

Even when prospective insurgents have successfully argued that the existing authorities are corrupt, selfish and unjust, there are going to be others who feel just as strong in the opposite directly. It is just a question of how many.

For that reason, it’s a long, long road to civil war, when you up and think about it. And that’s a good thing.

Still, these things do happen, and the reasons are invariable, even if the particulars are not: A succesful revolution has a compelling legal and moral underpinnings, pursuing a good that benefits even those it opposes, once they up and think about it for a while. Or, perhaps more practically, those who fight on its behalf most certainly believe so.

For this reason, I believe the American revolution succeeded.

For this reason, I believe the Southern secession failed; there was never any sincere doubt that success of that unfortunate cause would mean anything but aristocracy, on the bought and beaten backs of a slave underclass.

For this reason, the Nazis failed. The last thing on their minds was the common good. In fact, the very notion offended them. The last thing the Third Reich was about was rule of law, when it was so (to them!) clear that some were racially meant to rule, others racially meant to serve, others racially meant to die.

Now, here’s the danger: What happens when both sides really honestly feel that they have law, justice and the common good at heart, and see opposition to their objectives as outrageous. Now, the beliefs do not have to be supported by reality; they just have to be heartfelt. Consider another  statement from the letter cited above We hold these truths to be self-evident.

Now ask yourselves, if you have come this far, when you’ve ante’d up to this level, where lives are at stake, what you would bend insofar as law and justice are concerned on behalf of the common good as you see it. And how much you would tolerate being bound by law and justice and past precedent, if doing so favored the rival cause.

Let’s not mince words: Who is more prepared to do just that, Democrats or Republicans? And let’s not leave this to an exercise in logic: Who has already taken the step over the edge?

5. The Rule of Retribution. This is the sad, ultimate place where long, protracted struggles go. When neither side has established superlative advantage by right of law, or common appeal, or justice, or preservation of life in its struggle with the other. The intrinsic moral virtues are secondary here; it is what is established before the court of public opinion, with the vote of self-sacrifice, that matters. This is the place where long, endless struggles prevail, where the path back to life, to justice, to the common good, to rule of law is dangerous and uncertain and those who contemplate taking that course despair of it, as they fight the quid pro quo of a war of mutual vengeance.

This is the place we dare not go. Why? Because guess what it looks like:

It looks a lot like the Middle East.

And if we are not careful, Middle America will look exactly the same.

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