Alas, Dr. Franklin, we did not keep the republic you bequeathed to us. It has been swept away in bitter tides of war, ignorance, corruption, apathy, greed, hatred and self-deceit. It cannot be restored.
Each of these tides, in its own manner, lethally eroded the ideal of the republic. In creating the most monstrous war machine in history, we have remolded our nation into an oligarchy of warlords. Militarism and all its appurtenances have become so rich and powerful a force in the United States that it can never be turned back. Only this week, the military industrial complex itself gave us the material for a metaphor. From Bath, Maine, the largest destroyer ever built for the U.S. Navy began to navigate the winding Kennebec River toward the open ocean for sea trials — the 600-foot, 15,000-ton USS Zumwalt. Imagine, if you can, 100 brave swimmers, pushing against her prow, trying to shove her back to port. Now imagine a tenfold increase in the size and power of the ship, and a reduction of the number of swimmers to ten. The swimmers’ chances of stopping and reversing the course of that monstrous ship are roughly the equivalent of the hopes for success of a peace movement in the former republic of the United States.
In willful ignorance we heard but did not heed the warning, 54 years ago, of an outgoing president against this monster aborning.
Concurrently, our civic apathy enabled ever growing corruption in government at every level. The republic formed by Dr. Franklin and his peers in that Philadelphia hall envisioned a process by which laws would be fashioned by direct representatives of the people, elected by the people and responsible to the people. Today, laws are made in secret by a non-government entity created and funded by multi-billionaires such as the Kochs, then handed to bought-and-paid-for office holders for a rite of passage that mocks democracy. This process takes place at every level of government, enslaving The People in a system designed to perpetually enrich the oligarchs and their institutions while depriving the citizenry of even the most basic and necessary government protections. Eventually, the common people will be seen only as fodder for the war machine.
Until the final takeover of everything by the oligarchy, a pretense of democratic form functions in the former republic. We hold elections. A few of us — too few — actually vote, driven by the self-deceit that our votes “count.” Cut off by corporate media from the truth about our government and its policies, the electorate responds, as the oligarchs intend, to appeals to the basest facets of their nature. Hate and its obverse image, fear, increasingly motivate the masses. We fear “them” because their skin is not white, or they practice religions other than our sick version of Christianity, or they wear non-western clothing, or they speak funny languages. And so we vote for some bloviating demagogue named Walker or Rubio or Cruz or — heaven forefend! — Trump.
Thus, day by day, in ways large and small, does our ignorance feed our self-deceit, and our self-deceit serve the interests of our corporate masters, exponentially engorging their obscene fortunes, and debasing the lives of the commoners.
In his historic warning 54 years ago, Dwight Eisenhower urged us to always be cognizant of “the need to maintain balance in and among national programs -- balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage -- balance between the clearly necessary and the comfortably desirable; balance between our essential requirements as a nation and the duties imposed by the nation upon the individual; balance between actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.”
When we lost that balance we began to lose Dr. Franklin’s republic.
And this is the final irony: if somehow we shed the yoke of ignorance and sought through massive rebellion to change the things that are, our rebellion must fail, suppressed by the massive, militarized police state we have allowed to grow up around us.