Devils Tower (1962), by Kennie Fuller

Devils Tower paintingI recently moved this picture to a place where I see it each morning, upon awakening, and each night before going to sleep.

My Dad gave it to me when I was 8 years old, and except for a few years in my young adulthood, I’ve had it with me ever since. But it was not to my former long-term partner’s taste, and was therefore exiled to my archival section (literally — where I keep my filing cabinets) for many years. It’s been strange to have it speak to me so regularly, after so long, and I realized tonight it’s been working on me.

I also then remembered that I can at last share here not only this artwork, but the wonderful letter I received from the artist, as a 4th grader, when I asked him to tell me what his painting was about.Kennie's letter

“May 1st, 1962

“Dear Donald,

“Received your letter dated April 28th, asking about the ledgend of the painting your father bought from me and gave to you. To the best of my knowledge, it is as follows:

“A long time ago, before white men came to this contient, seven braves and one sqaw from the plains Indian tribe — (probably Cheyenne) were traveling to their village in the North Eastern corner of  Wyoming, when a huge bear attacked them. They jumped upon a flat rock and seeing that they were almost doomed, they began praying to Wakan Tonka (their Great Spirit) to save them. Suddenly the rock began growing in size and as it grew skyward, the bear hung on and began slipping down, leaving great crevices & scratches on the sides of the tower. He then tried to climb up and left more scratches and huge boulders beneath. The bear became angry and left, leaving this huge domed shaped tower as evidence of this story or ledgend.

“This tower is known today as Devils Tower, located North and East of Sundance, Wyoming. The tower is 865 high and 1 mile and a quarter around the base. There is 1½ acres of surface on top.

“The reason I put the old Indian in the foreground is to represent the Indians Ledgend and to more or less give the impression that he is telling the story.

“I hope this answers your question fully, thank your for your interest.

“Sincerely,

“Kennie Fuller

“#12853”

In our subsequent correspondence, Kennie also confirmed that he consciously chose to depict the bear as having a long tail, because this came before the bear’s having gone fishing in Minnesota. But that’s another tale entirely.

 

Advertisements

A Book That Shaped My Life

In 1978, I met David Ramage of the New World Foundation, who became my mentor for the next five years, as I stepped into my role as a consultant and national organizer for cultural democracy. David had come to San Francisco on foundation business and came over for dinner. In that first meeting, he recommended the most important book I have ever read — one that crystallized my understanding of my work as an organizer: Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

This is not an “easy read.” Fortunately, at the time, I was facilitating the formation of Rural Arts Services, a coalition of rural cultural organizers from all over rural Northern California that had been seeded with grants from the California Arts Council when I served as its Deputy Director the year before. I read the book aloud to my partner at the time, on our long drives to and from Arcata: so each time some dense, pregnant thought came up, we paused, re-read, and discussed what Freire meant. We used his insights in what became a complicated consultation, and it has infused my practice as a democratic activist and political thinker ever since.

Freire had been minister of education in Brazil in the Sixties, before the military coup that send him into exile for decades. At the time, peasants were being displaced from the Amazon basin, finding themselves suddenly deprived of their land and marooned in urban favelas (slums) and dependent upon alienating factory labor — repeating a pattern seen throughout the world since the Industrial Revolution. They resisted every attempt to educate them in conventional ways.

Freire was able to change all that. His great insight was that they would not learn to read or write, because they saw literacy only as one more imposition from their corporate bosses — an instrument of their oppression. Freire’s great insight — expressed in Pedagogy of the Oppressed — was that education took place only when it was understood by the learner as a means of liberation: a tool for understanding their situation, for expressing and asserting their dignity, and fighting back against the forces of oppression.

This radical vision of education — as a liberating force for democracy — is the reason that Freire himself was forced to leave his country, and why many of his colleagues and students were tortured and killed by the junta that ruled Brazil for decades. He found a home in the World Council of Churches, which is how David found him.

Others did, too. A few years later, after I’d moved from San Francisco to Washington, concerned that the nation (like California) was swinging to the Right, I stumbled across another book on a remainder table outside a DuPont Circle bookstore — Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. We published an article about Freire and Boal in our organizing newsletter, which resonated powerfully with the leaders of the many political theaters in our national alliance (almost all defunct by the mid-Eighties, early casualties of the Reagan Era).

Since then, I have found colleagues all over the world whose work was focused and sustained by the ideas first expressed by Freire. As we wrote in the introduction to a 2002 anthology published by the Rockefeller Foundation, Community, Culture, and Globalization:

The root idea of community cultural development is the imperative to fully inhabit our human lives, bringing to consciousness the values and choices that animate our communities and thus equipping ourselves to act — to paraphrase Paulo Freire — as subjects in history, rather than merely its objects.

Today we stand at a precarious moment in world history. Corporate capitalists have made an anti-social science of suppressing democracy everywhere in the world. Their power has operated transnationally for generations now, first through their increasing control of the the U.S. government since the beginning of the Cold War, and in recent decades through the neoliberal institutions of globalized capitalism that are attempting to release corporations from any effective regulation by any nation-state — most pointedly that of the United States of America, the world’s hegemonic geopolitical force since the end of World War II.

In this dangerous political climate — facing forces immensely more powerful than the democratic organizations that have been intentionally deprived of material support throughout the Reagan Era — transnational activism offers our primary hope of responding to such global issues as environmental degradation, poverty, and the countless conflicts intentionally sown and inflamed by anti-democratic, capitalist forces. Corporate America has invested untold millions — billions — in suppressing democracy here in the U.S. and abroad since the mid-Thirties. They have so far succeeded in fostering a sense of alienation from government — even hatred of our own government, our primary means of asserting democratic power.

Our only hope in responding to this horrifying prospect — authoritarian rule by those who hold outrageous levels of wealth — lies in our ability, now, in the 21st Century, to rebuild and reinvent democracy. Freire’s book is therefore vital for teachers, organizers, and citizens, wherever we stand, as a basis of shared understanding and practical approaches to this most essential generative theme in world culture: the empowerment of all people, everywhere, in creating communities based on real respect for individual dignity as against the forces of oppression arrayed against us.

The link I have shared here gives you access to a complete PDF of Paulo Freire’s seminal work. Please read it! Read it aloud, as I did, with friends and colleagues. Talk about what it means where you stand:

  • What are the generative themes of life in your community?
  • How might people be brought into situations of deeper, mutual education?
  • How can we save public education from the depredations of privatizing coporatae forces committed to destroying our democracy?

Freire’s language can be confusing: he urges us to become “subjects” in history, not mere objects. He does not mean “subjects” in the old feudal sense — like the “subjects” of some king. Quite the contrary. He means for us to step up as actors in this world, creating new democratic possibilities for ourselves and each other. This is our challenge still — more urgently so than ever before in world history — in the 21st Century.

Collateral Damage: Anti-communism & U.S. Cultural Policy

Responding to recent posts, friends have asked why my blog fell silent for a couple years there. The answer is simple: I was busy writing my thesis — “Collateral Damage: Anti-Communism & U.S. Cultural Policy.” I’d be delighted if you read it! (This is a free PDF download.)
Neanderthal Red
“Collateral Damage” tells the story of anti-communism through much of the 20th Century, focusing on the deep collateral damage done to US culture by our conduct of the Cold War. We have swallowed a great deal of our own propaganda since the Cold War began: here I try to clear the air and reframe the issues, in hopes that fresh, intelligent discussion might now proceed.

 

This sweeping story actually comprises many stories. I chose from among countless similar ones, most of which wound up on my cutting-room floor. The historical narrative follows from the first mass expression of anti-communist sentiment nationally, in the Red Scare of 1919 (pp. 23-53), through its later expression in the “McCarthy era” of the Fifties (pp. 133-184), and its legacy since.

 

Various approaches to cultural policy emerge throughout; but to highlight anti-communism’s impact — and not incidentally, to prove my thesis — I focus especially on contrasting the federal cultural programs of the New Deal (pp.  70-114) with those of domestic cultural agencies established in the 1960’s (pp. 303-377).
The American Way colorized
Spoiler Alert! My Conclusions

My conclusions are summed up on pp. 378-385. But I’ll summarize other key observations here.

“Collateral Damage” reveals a foundational failure of unconstitutional dimensions in our de facto national cultural policy. Politicians and policymakers in the Truman administration relied upon religious values for Cold War propaganda purposes, rather than crafting secular statements of national cultural values. In effect, we devolved cultural policymaking to the realms of organized religion — which in recent decades, has significantly reorganized itself for political purposes, often in ways that strike many of us who believe differently as irreligious. This is an important target in my next book.

 

My thesis draws out six other significant impacts of anti-communism on U.S. cultural policy since the Sixties (see pp. 340-377):
  1. the primacy of the private sector over the public in defining cultural policy
  2. Euro-centric bias in defining the cultural field — “the fine arts”
  3. marginalization of diverse voices from outside traditional fine-arts contexts
  4. proscribing engagement with social issues in the arts and humanities
  5. the replacement of democracy with “free enterprise” as the driving spirit in cultural policy
  6. U.S. stance in foreign relations that reduces transnational cultural issues to questions of commerce and national security 

I conclude with an edited version of First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to the Democratic  National Convention in 2012 (pp. 385-388) — an exemplary secular statement of national cultural policy, were we to stand up as a nation for cultural democracy.

Download the complete document here.

WARNING: This is “a book-length manuscript,” laid out according to my university’s required thesis format. My academic committee urged its publication for the general reader, but I’ve already moved on to another book project, leaving this is on my back burner. So please forgive the format of this free download.
I welcome your comments & response right here. And suggestions of potential publishers are especially welcome!

Remembering the Panthers

Seale & Newton 56th & Grove Feb 1967I was 13 when I first saw the Panthers — back in 1967, folding my morning supply of the Minneapolis Tribune for delivery. They were hard to miss!

I’m not sure what the occasion was: maybe their first public appearance at the San Francisco airport — to protect Betty Shabazz, widowed by the assassination of Malcolm X, from any further predation? Or maybe when a larger contingent made their way into Sacramento’s Capitol later that spring, to testify against gun control? No matter.

Just one look, and they had you: smartly dressed, and armed to the teeth, they turned out to defend the black community like no one else ever had. California’s newly installed actor-governor certainly agreed: Ronald Reagan was on the Capitol lawn, greeting a group of school-aged picnickers, on that fine May day when the Panther caravan drove up and disgorged its cadre of armed lobbyists. The very sight sent Reagan scurrying back to his office sanctum for cover. Very quickly, that revered hero of the NRA signed California’s first law against open-carrying — an expression of racist fear.

Panthers Hit the Bee May 1967The Panthers were not about non-violence — the prior public assumption of what black activism looked like, as the civil rights movement crested and declined. Brown v. Board of Education was decided more than a decade before, but the nation’s schools were still segregated. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were on the books at last — but America was responding by shutting down public facilities, privatizing schools, and finding other work-arounds to the challenge of constructing a post-racist Promised Land. Most crucially, the nation’s police actually stepped up their harassment of black communities — not only in the South, but everywhere black people lived. Anger exploded in urban rebellions in the North and West, Newark and Watts. This fiery anger forged and fueled the Black Panther Party.

Party founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (pictured at the top in front of their first headquarters) met years before 1966 at Oakland’s Merritt College, and had done plenty of homework, in after-hour study groups. (Black Studies were not in the curriculum then.) They knew the long history of struggle against racism and were well-versed in revolutionary theory. So when racists met progress with resistance, they knew that reason alone wouldn’t change anything. W.E.B. Du Bois and countless others had reasoned away since the 19th Century and longer — and still the police invaded private homes at night, without warrants or restraint, terrorizing innocent black families and attacking people on the streets. It was time for armed self-defense against the violence of state power and white-racist mobs.

Huey had also read up on California’s gun laws. Open carry! So when he and Bobby and their first recruit, L’il Bobby Hutton, started tracking and publicly confronting Oakland’s vicious police, they were ready: they spoke right up — gathering amazed impromptu crowds — and they won every time, citing chapter and verse of California law. People in Oakland and Richmond (CA) saw the police confronted by these very challenging black men, backing down, and speeding off. A very new and volatile stage of the revolt against racism was on!

black_panther_party_symbolI won’t detail here the rest of this amazing, but ultimately devastating history. For that, I recommend a really important and timely book — the first comprehensive history of the rise and fall of the Black Panther Party: Black Against Empire (2013) by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr. You’ll be amazed at their detailed telling of the Panthers’ glorious ascent, and appalled at the levels of vicious State violence and repression unleashed in response. The authors have interviewed the survivors and combed through previously suppressed police records to reconstruct stories that will chill you to the core. Make no mistake, as we reawaken to the fact that Black Lives Matter: police violence, repression, and unruliness are truly a longstanding American dilemma. Containing and refocusing our police is surely one of our key challenges in reconstructing a respectable democratic State.

Black Against Empire proves one very important point — deflating whatever cartoon version of Panther history has been brought to you by ahistorical rumor-mongers:

The unchanging core of the Black Panther Party’s political ideology was black anti-imperialism. The Party always saw its core constituency as “the black community,” but it also made common cause between the struggle of the black community and the struggles of other peoples against oppression. … The Black Panther Party always saw itself as the revolutionary vanguard advancing the interests of the black community for self-determination within a larger global struggle against imperialism.

In its heyday — with the United States shamefully engaged in imperial misadventure in Vietnam and every other nation on this Earth, though most often under covert cover — the Party won real respect in the post-colonial international arena. They stood proudly as representatives of a black nation colonized by white racists driving U.S policy at home and abroad. The shame they exposed so excited that master of deceit — Public Enemy No. 1, J. Edgar Hoover — that his taxpayer-financed terrorism truly sealed the BPP’s own tragic fate.

Panther MontageOakland police murdered L’il Bobby early on, one dark night in 1968 — after he had stripped down to show he was unarmed, hands-up in surrender. Police killed many more Panthers, sometimes in military assaults that will horrify you, if you dare to read Bloom & Martin’s careful reconstruction of this history. What we’re seeing today — in this atmosphere of resurgent racist reaction — is truly nothing new. We desperately need to face the facts and the forces we remain up against still.

The spirit of the Panthers did not die. Reading this book, I recognized names of my grantees at the California Arts Council, in Jerry Brown’s halcyon  “Gov. Moonbeam” days (1976-78). The Panthers spawned cultural activism that has reached millions in very deep and lasting ways.

We are forever changed by their bold courage in striding right up and challenging the pigs. Many Panther leaders were murdered and driven into exile at taxpayer expense — and in many more U.S. cities and much greater numbers than Bloom and Martin could tackle in one book. Not a single mention is made, for example, of the Kansas City story. Here, City Police and the FBI nipped Panther organizing in the bud very early on — in 1969, right after Chicago Police murdered Fred Hampton in his bed —depriving Kansas City of its boldest young black leaders. The profound desolation of life today on the city’s East Side stands in sorry contrast to what two Party leaders — Pete and Charlotte O’Neal — have built in exile: Tanzania’s United African Alliance Community Center. If only this had happened here; instead, we got that.

Panther logoAnd the struggle continues. Read this book and remember. Then wipe away your tears, and stand up and strike out like a panther would — against racist attack and right-wing reaction. Can we at last begin building the diverse cultural democracy that our nation so sorely needs?

Honoring the Indigenous

How many centuries have passed — how many successive generations of colonists, turned colonizers — before We the People have finally begun to turn, at long last, to recognizing where the deepest knowledge about living in the Americas would spring? How many people — how many peoples — have passed from this life unseen — or dismissed as savage — despite the fact that so many others first came to this continent, on their shaky ships, to escape savagery back home?

Our remembrance and recognition must include such deep, deep sadness — too deep to truly fathom — of our very great losses in forging this nation.

Please do not mistake what I’m saying. In no way do I mean to blame any of those those now awakening. But we must also now honor those many generations. We must now try to remember all that we have lost — the terrible destruction of cultures shattered, bones broken, circles of life destroyed.

At the same time, we must most certainly honor all that has been retained, maintained, and reinvented from within these traditions. How many people have survived in miraculous strength, carrying these traditions forward against all odds? Perhaps as many as there are stars in the sky.

Further still, we must remember that not everyone who came from some other continent to this one was blind to the awesome reality of their own new world. Many of us have indeed learned from the people we encountered here, whom we came to respect and admire. From Jameston to 1776 was an historic period as long as the one from 1776 to 1945. That’s a lot of generations! Many colonists — still European in identity and consciousness — became captivated with native American life while living in this still-New World. (Some of them quite literally.) And once they experienced it themselves, very few decided — or even wanted — to head back home. (In historical fact, after the Revolution, fewer than 70,000 Tories.)

Those European exiles clearly saw the freedom of the originally American people who strode carelessly through their increasingly fortified encampments. Those who did venture out were able to witness mind-blowing displays of democracy and cultural practices that challenged the imagination. They saw Americans living like nobody lived back home, in their old world. They saw women standing with honor alongside men. Most were truly transformed.

So when it finally came time for them to admit that they, too, had become “Americans” — ready to throw that first Tea Party — how did they dress? Where did their new national symbols come from? Their Liberty Tree. Their bundles of arrows. The American eagle that clutched that bundle in his claws. Their statue of Freedom — some time later — high atop this nation’s Capitol, adorned in her feathered headdress. Their sainted Tammany — before his memory was swallowed by our political corruption…

In the end, this radically democratic vision proved too much to bear. Women’s rights took another 150 years of struggle for our Eurocentric colonial descendants to write into our Constitution (if not yet fully, to this day, into daily life). And 50 years after that much-storied American revolution, in rode swashbuckling Andrew Jackson, spurring countless ensuing trails of tears — all the tragic history that we later generations have tried so very hard to repress and forget, whether as imaginary victors or victims.

But today is our time to remember. May this now be our time. May we now begin to learn for our future. May we never forget, and always remember. Restore. Rebuild. Reenergize ourselves with the spirit of all our peoples.

This is my hope — and these are my prayers — on this day of honoring the indigenous people of America.

Catching Up with the Garifuna

Thanks to the Black Archives of Mid-America​ & a small battalion of local co-sponsors — but mainly to their courageous guest, Alfredo López Álvarez — I had the painful pleasure last evening of catching up with what’s been happening to the Garifuna people of Honduras.

I’d frankly lost track, since my days of working in Washington in the early 1980s, when Reagan’s CIA was active in the region. Narco-terrorism has set in, taking control of 80% of Garifuna land. And now US-financed development, through the World Bank, is threatening them further. López’s Kansas City talk at the Archives is his first stop in a Witness for Peace tour of the Upper Midwest, in progress through Oct. 23rd.

We were first shown a video — “Honduras: Ruthless Laboratory of Globalization,” produced by Mariana Gutierrez, after a tour taken by a group of Kansas City activists last May — in which a spokesman for the developers appears oblivious to the deep irony of his statement that his corporate overlord would be “developing people” by schooling them in hotel management at the Indura Beach & Golf Resort, which would “teach them how to take care of people.” (This is part of the World Bank’s “Model Cities” initiative on traditional Garifuna land. )

López described how he had been taken care of, for his leadership among the Garifuna in opposing the onslaught of narco-terrorism (and associated forays into mining, palm plantations & human trafficking), whose agents occupied their land for their illicit landing strips: he was imprisoned for three years as a presumed narco-terrorist himself. He is currently Vice President of OFRANEH — the Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (this site is en español — open with Google Chrome for a rough English translation)  and coordinates radio communication among six communities of Garifuna, descendants of indigenous Hondurans and escapees, centuries ago, from the Atlantic slave trade, present in Honduras since 1797.

López told me afterwards that the Garifuna have lately enjoyed little recent support from transnational activists, apparently busy fighting fires elsewhere in Central America — hence the importance of his speaking tour. A $1 billion “Plan for Prosperity” is currently pending in the U.S. federal budget for 2016. He is hoping U.S. activists will support the Garifuna’s demands for (1) free and fair elections; (2) recognition of the Garifuna’s traditional communal ownership lands they have occupied at least since the 1950s; and (3) monitoring the use of U.S. funding for the military operations in Honduras, using the “Leahy law,” and termination of World Bank funding for the proposed “special development zone” there — a classic example of what Michael Perelman described in his 2000 book, The Invention of Capitalism, as the the brutish “primitive accumulation” necessary to force worker compliance with the “laissez faire” of capital.

The United States’ complex and complicating role in Central America is rooted in our earliest imperial forays in the region, at the turn of the last century — fueling the breakaway of Panama from Colombia, to facilitate canal construction, corporate colonization, and our steady, shady covert operations — especially since the Dulles brothers orchestrated the 1954 overthrow of democratically elected Pres. Jacobo Arbenz of Guatemala, whose land reforms threatened the extensive, fallow landholdings of United Fruit, on whose Board both Dulles’s sat while heading up Eisenhower’s State Department and CIA.

These were not mentioned yesterday, though the 2009 coup in Honduras was, and the subsequent presidency of Porfirio Lobo Sosa, complicit in narco-terrorism and current “development” threats to the Garifuna.  (Lobo’s own son was arrested for his collaboration with the narco-terrorist cartel, but his brother continues to play a leadership role there.) We in the U.S. clearly bear great responsibility for the problems faced by people in the region.

Much was invoked, though much had to be left unsaid, in López’s hourlong talk and Q&A. Poignantly, he was asked for advice in handling the hopelessness and helplessness audience members felt in considering how we might rein in our own U.S. government. Here, López’s action, and those of his people, speak louder than words. Yet much more talking and action are clearly needed on our part, and this is his essential message.

We bear special responsibility, as citizens of what has long been touted as the “Leader of Free World,” to install real commitment to cultural democracy — democratic freedom, participation & diversity — as against the strain of globalizing, ideological capitalism born of our self-declared Cold War. The plight of the Garifuna people offers one small, but important window into the enormous costs of our obliviousness and our silence.

The 2nd Amendment & Democratic Revolution

Eleven score and six years ago, once they got home from Philadelphia, our Founding Fathers were made to realize they’d actually overachieved in their minimalism. Critics attacked their draft for failing to include any mention of foundational individual rights in their proposed Constitution. Nervous that it wouldn’t otherwise be ratified, they slapped together a series of amendments, which the first Congress submitted to the states in 1789, and two years later, ten of these were ratified. Our “Bill of Rights” thus became the law of the land.

Second among these amendments were 27 words whose meaning (as usual) is not entirely clear. For most of our history, this was not a big deal. Hunters hunted, and the rest of us mostly remembered muskets every 4th of July. Since the NRA went ballistically right-wing in the 1970s, though, the meaning of the 2nd Amendment has been vigorously flogged, to explosive impact.

Things have changed since the 18th Century. We let renters vote. We disapprove of people buying and selling other people. Why, we even let women vote! (Though men so resisted that idea that it required a 19th amendment, after a century of focused, frustrated organizing — something we never actually did with slavery, inexplicitly swept under the Constitutional carpet in Amendments 13 and 14.) These are examples of positive change — national progress.

Not every post-Constitutional innovation has been progressive, though. For example, we have also steadily allowed corporate entities that were unimaginable in the 18th Century — except, perhaps, for the East India Company — to step in as controllers not only of our federal government, but most state and local ones, too. At the time, East India was widely understood as a colonial appendix of the British Crown — against which we had already Declared (and won) our Independence. Since the Industrial Revolution really took off here, though — by the late 19th Century, we’ve increasingly allowed these corporate hind-parts to wag our dog.

We have also let their mass media brainwash us — to the extent that they would try to tell us (more than a year-and-a-half prior to a national election!) that a candidate who’s electrifying popular support is “not viable.” This reveals tremendous regress. But that’s another topic — unless (perish the thought) they decide (or inspire some crazy person) to kill him.

In reality, under the guise of Constitutionality, our whole political philosophy has gone soft. Part of the American Revolutionary vision was that the men — er, “the People,” as even the Men put it in our Declaration of Independence — who would gather under our metaphorical Liberty Tree in the Nation’s capital (for which no location was fixed: the District of Columbia was created and built later) would represent our higher selves.

Our Congress, for instance, was conceived as being smarter and wiser than the hoi polloi. This is implied, though not stated, in our Constitution: no explicit mention was made of intelligence as qualification for office nor as a voting-registration requirement; in fact, the latter was left to the States — though we later had to recognize that that was stupid, since the states could be more easily controlled by racists. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was our attempted fix, though in these late days of the mass-mediated “Reagan Revolution” (formulated and sold to 25% of eligible voters in 1980), right-wingers are trying to undo that even that attempted fix and reinstall the problem.

Though inexplicit, the Framers’ assumption of wise leadership was discussed quite extensively at the “point of sale” for our Constitution — as reflected in the series of newspaper op-ed pieces widely published in the former colonies in the 1780s, then compiled and published as The Federalist Papers. Structurally, several aspects of the government it described sought to protect us from stupid people, in a system that aspires to democracy. Some of these structural elements remain, like the “Electoral College” (which is not mentioned as such in the doc, and is not a “college” at all). Others were later disposed of as undemocratic: the appointment of Senators by Governors was undone by the 17th amendment. (The Founders assumed that Governors, too, would be smarter than the average bear.)

Well, wake up, Yogi: this, too, has changed — the proof is in Scott Walker’s and Sam Brownback’s pudding. We the Voters — men and woman, former-owners and former-slaves, Tories and Revolutionists — have for some time now been electing representatives of our Baser Beings. We have for quite some time now been electing Representatives (and since 1913, Senators, too) who actually mistake capitalism as being a political philosophy — which it is not. It is an imperfect economic system not mentioned in our Constitution: at the time, no one had even heard of it, though it was the sugarplum fairy dancing in Adams Smith’s head. Democracy is famously our national political ambition — impossible to achieve, yet truly the lamp upheld above our Golden Door of our national politics.

To the extent that such stupid beings hold public office — public officials who care more for cash than for democracy — they must be turned out. That’s what elections are for, and this is why the election-cycle our Founders dictated for the only popularly-elected Representatives in their Constitution is so very short: victories among stupid mobs in local Congressional districts were anticipated. (Some such sat in the Constitutional Congress itself, though this was mainly discussed after hours, in pubs.) It was assumed that the ineffectiveness of such craven choices would lead the public back home to wise up and elect someone better. Sadly, this has not proven the case, even among Senators (remember “Tailgunner Joe”?) — though we now have democratic media where 21st Century people from one state can more easily tell the residents of others what they “like” (if not yet “dislike” — for that, we must still compose full sentences, though abbreviations are de rigeur — and we can also “share” memes!).

There are of course dramatically more citizens today than there were in 1776, but this does not mean that we need yet greater supplies of Stupid. Quite the contrary: we desperately require greater wisdom to responsibly lead a nation of such frightening hegemonic power as ours has commanded since the end of World War II.

The 2nd Amendment, in my humble opinion, and in the often not-so-humble opinion of all intelligent Constitutional scholars, was intended to preserve our right to make revolution, should that become necessary. Facebook memes (frequently “liked” from Right and Left) assert that Thomas Jefferson expected this to happen regularly — say, every 50 years or so. By that measure, we are way behind schedule: I’d count the Civil War as one that failed — or rather, was undone and “spun” beyond recognition after our violently suppressed Reconstruction. The subsequent Civil Rights Movement, cresting a century later, tried to repair this failure, though we can now also say — and this is being said — that this, too, has been undone by means unanticipated by Congressional fixers in 1964 and 1965, in a new Jim Crow.

That the 2nd Amendment was primarily meant to protect our individual right to make revolution, as I would argue, is demonstrated by its invocation of the “well regulated militia.” This is certainly not a feature of the bands of thugs now flagrantly displaying their stupidity (not to mention their mental illness — though now I have) by schlepping guns into shopping malls (also non-existent, nor imagined, nor even desired, at the time of our last Revolution), as well as on the streets, in their trucks — even where we assemble our most vulnerable citizens, for educational purposes: in our elementary schools!

¡Basta! Democracy — in its Constituted form — calls upon Us the People to manifest not some imaginary Destiny (and explicitly not our personal beliefs), but our better selves, as intelligent, informed citizens. It is from our higher consciousness that We must ask ourselves: What do we need to continue making democratic revolution today? Who are our tyrants today? How do we shake them off, so as to restore ourselves to the never-ending path toward A More Perfect Union, in a powerful nation-state of 300 million increasingly diverse People?

Banking our weapons is surely Step One on that path. Read the headlines, and weep. We have ample evidence of our failure to step up and take responsibility for our weakest links. I will summarize: We have the highest rates of gun violence on the planet. We kill each other — in the end, mainly our own family members and former friends — at rates so great that they exceed the numbers killed in our official wars. More even than in the many (actually countless) unofficial wars that our nation-state has waged since the end of Word War II.

So stupid have been the leaders of our federal government that they have actually undermined the principle of the “well-ordered militia” by sending domestic forces — what we today call the National Guard — into foreign theaters of military operation. This is why, when natural disasters have hit (say the name “Katrina”), there have been insufficient numbers of organized defense available to help our suffering fellow citizens.

Genug iz tzu genug! Let Us the People stop being stupid, already! Our insane, armed minority should no longer be granted veto-power over our better selves. We don’t have to imagine the end-state of their radical devil’s-advocacy: it is on display in our evening news — and the whole world is watching, and thinks we are nuts! And so do most of Us. Guns are controlled in every civilized nation on the planet. Many models are available to us, if we look beyond our boundaries, as we are morally required to so, after 70 years of thinking only of ourselves. But rightwing fringe people — backed by corporate arms manufacturers and their dealers — tell us that this is not a viable idea.

How do we make democratic revolution in the United States of America in the 21st Century? We use our words. We teach this to kindergarteners in our public schools. Let’s stand up and demand this of our higher selves and of our representatives in Washington. If those representatives refuse, let’s get smart (y’see what I did there?) and send in a squadron of smarter ones in 2016.

We clearly need effective, federal gun-control legislation in the United States of America. Right now!