Nouveaux Praetorians

Dedicated to my wonderful friends, Toby and Fred

Having lived through approximately 30% of the history of the United States of America and having spent most of that time studying politics and history, 2017 seems as though it may be a watershed year. There have been many, 1776, 1789, 1800, 1832, 1860, 1898, 1916, 1929 and 1941 are examples, but perhaps not any as potentially destructive as this one. One would need to go back to the period immediately preceding the series of civil wars that destroyed the Roman Republic to find a real analogy but of course, how many of our fellow citizens have any understanding of that epoch, and even among those who ought to understand, how many are adequately shielded from the lure of partisan politics that renders their knowledge so opaque that it becomes illusory. Some of us though can smell echoes of the putrid bouquet of heads on pikes stalking us, can almost hear a flippant spirit we though long discarded echoing horror movie quotes: “I’m back!”

The mainstream media that we trust to provide us with a recognizably accurate world view have taken instead to scripting stranger than fiction, well, … fiction. And having been provided two impossibly poor choices in the last presidential elections, our civic structure has finally cracked. As almost always seems to be the case, the terminal fragmentation came from a source we’d not predicted but should have. Hypocrisy reigns, but then, hasn’t it always?

Mixing metaphors is normally bad, too frequently reflective of hysterical hyperbole, but then, that may well be how this year will come to be defined. It is the year of pots calling kettles black. The year of followers of an elderly orange haired lady brutalizing an elderly yellow haired man for daring to run and win; he was supposed to run, they’d assured he would; but he wasn’t supposed to win, that was unkind and ungentlemanly, it was her turn; they were supposed to be friends. And he was supposed to pledge beforehand to accept the results, failing to do that would be treasonous. She’d made the pledge, as had her followers, especially those among the mainstream media (who just happened to be almost all of those in the mainstream media). But then, they were supposed to win damn it!

So, ….

The mainstream media refers to President Trump as a fascist but is part of a cabal that promotes militarism everywhere, that demands constant foreign incursions, that consistently calls for the overthrow of the duly elected president and which trumpets calls to protect the Republic from foreign intervention into our domestic affairs, especially if it involves disclosure of accurate information, while supporting such intervention everywhere else. Fascism? One is led to wonder just what it is, other than a mere pejorative. And if wonder leads to research, as it should, then, lo and behold pots and kettles making noise while one calls the other black.

All of the political forces that currently control our Republic seem inept and dishonest. That is as true of the current administration as it would have been had the orange haired lady won. It’s been true for a very long time because most of us have no idea how to manage the purported democracy we evolved. Democracy is based on certain premises purportedly discovered millennia ago: that all subjects must be politically equal, that no one should be either too wealthy or too poor and that the electorate must be active and informed. Of course, slavery made that possible back then and oddly, in the absence of slavery democracy has never really worked. The idle political class that slavery made possible in ancient Hellas has been replaced by a purportedly classless society without the time or inclination or resources to become adequately informed or sufficiently participatory. Just the way elites prefer it, easy to manipulate with bread and circuses (except now without the bread). Still, circuses abound, especially in the federal legislature and the mainstream media.

Our current so-called-democracy, even among those of us who somehow manage to acquire relevant information and somehow generate enough interest to care about governance and to participate in current political systems, has become dominated by a destructively inverse virus deliberately cultivated and maintained. By the practice of voting against candidates, parties, principles, philosophies, causes, etc., rather than in favor of something we believe in. By the “lesser evil” syndrome. By fear, fear and more fear. Thus all we ever get is evil and ineptitude and injustice and inequity. Not that those are the only options. Evolution keeps trying to intervene by providing us with other political choices but: “bugabuga”; they are too young and too small and too idealistic and not enough people will ever vote for them so we shouldn’t either, if we do, the other bad guys will win and we can’t have that!!!!!

So, what hope do we have? If our brains won’t work perhaps our anger and fury and emotions will. Or we can just drop out, watch the tube, play videogames on our cell phones, masturbate. Who cares!!!! Bad is a relative concept anyway (or so the ubiquitous “they” say).

So (again), back to today, and to transition, and to revolution. And to orange haired ladies versus yellow haired men. To a moment when pent up emotions curtailed by decades of refined political restraint have risen to the surface, fanned by well-organized firemen but of the Fahrenheit 451 variety (Ray Bradbury, 1953), paid for by those who’ve been “penning” us up (a pun of sorts as well as a double entendre).

Too many people I respect and whose hearts and instincts are in the right place but whose partisan loyalties overwhelm their better selves have determined that, notwithstanding the traditions that have led to a century and a half of relative political stability (if not all that much progress), it is time for an American coup; soft or hard it matters not. Consequences be damned. The orange haired lady must be vindicated and if it leads to nuclear holocaust, who the Hell cares. The post Aquarian age is an age for raw emotion. The yellow haired tyrant must be deposed before he destroys our way of life with his proposed radical changes designed to maintain the status quo. Incoherence be damned too. If the tune turns your heart, that’s enough.

Some of these friends are knowledgeable about history and once knew that historically, when the civic political system is overthrown, almost inevitably, the result, either on a short or long term basis, involves military dictatorship. They once knew that such result is especially true when the state involved is engaged in constant military activity and foreign intervention. They once knew that such result is especially true when an elitist oligarchy is the most likely beneficiary. But that knowledge becomes irrelevant when emotions come to the fore. Hatred and fury and revenge. Who cares! Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my.

Hail the American Empire!

When Octavian became Augustus he thoroughly believed that he’d established a system that would overcome the deficiencies of the Republic, its contentiousness, and especially the consequences of the civil wars that for almost two centuries had racked it. He’d not counted on what Gaius become Caligula discovered, perhaps deservedly so, that all too soon the Praetorians would assume control.

Our Nouveaux Praetorians sit a bit impatiently a ’waiting in the wings
_______

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved

Guillermo Calvo Mahé is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia. Until recently he chaired the Political Science, Government and International Relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He has academic degrees in political science, law, international legal studies and translation studies and can be contacted at wacalvo3@autonoma.edu.co. Much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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