The American empire, like all others before it, is doomed to fall. Acknowledgment of that fate was implicit in Dr. Franklin's warning that the democratic republic he helped form would endure only "if you can keep it." The founders divorced their new republic from the British empire and did not aspire to empire for themselves or their progeny. It is we, the people, who have failed to keep what we were given.
What course is open to us now? Chris Hedges, one of the few keepers of contemporary history who fully understands what we have done to ourselves, prescribes a course of growing civil disobedience. To follow this course we must be prepared, like Ghandi and King, to suffer incarceration, abuse and pain. But few of America's vast and privileged middle class are willing to endure such sufferings even if to restore democracy, even as their "class" disappears around them.
We live under an iron fist of little minds and great wealth. Edmund Burke warned Britannia that "great empire and little minds go ill together." In our conduct of public affairs, we Americans pay no mind to history. And so, as Bernard De Voto observed three quarters of a century ago, "American empire careens toward its unpredicted end."
The question, I guess, is, will the people of these United States take a hand in their own fate? And, if so, how will they go about it? When will they begin to assert themselves? What remains in their power to turn the course of the ship of state?
First, of course, there must be an awakening to what has already happened. The last great empire to fall, the Soviet Union, imploded when people under its yoke began to learn the truth about the modern world and reacted to it. We as a people have had constant access to truth and turned our backs to it. One important example: we have been shown the evidence that government alone can assure adequate health care for all of its citizens, yet collectively we choose to believe in death panels and an ogre called "socialized medicine" -- and to just let our fellow citizens die.
Corporations wealthy beyond the wildest dreams of Midas or Khan, and controlled by a relative handful of oligarchs, have revised the vocabulary of public discourse to the extent that we no longer speak plain English to or about one another. They own our fate because they own not just every aspect of our government but the very ways in which we communicate with one another.
Even if we, as a people, understood and renounced this; even if we, as a people, achieved a common will to overthrow the corporatocracy that oppresses us, how would we go about it? Has any peoples' revolution in history confronted such enormous wealth and power?
We, the people, have plenty of guns. But could an armed revolution succeed in today's United States any better than, say, the Hungarian revolution of 1956 against the might of the Soviet empire? Obviously not. Glocks with big magazines can kill our fellow citizens, but will not fell Exxon Mobile or Goldman Sachs.
Millions of Americans who want and need to work are jobless. Millions of baby boomers, when they reach retirement age, will have no social safety net to sustain them. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will vanish under the weight of a debt created by the empire's endless pursuit of war, mindlessly funded by a congress owned by the military-industrial corporatocracy.
Impoverished, lacking adequate medical care, ill-educated, self-deluded, short sighted, small-minded, blinded by prejudice and oppressed by oligarchy, how can a people rise up and take control of its own destiny?
Oligarchies, like kingdoms, may indeed be clay, as Antony remarked to Cleopatra. But this empire will not melt into the Tiber, nor will its wide arch of ranged empire simply fall.
It will be conquered by another, stronger, smarter empire, not by force of arms, but by force of economics. Or it will be toppled by its own people in a tsunami of return to self-governance.
But are the American people capable of that?