David Hines
Contra the American people
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By David Hines
January 28, 2011

I heard a caller on C-SPAN taking issue with the term "the American people." I must say, he has a point. He didn't have much time to articulate it, so I shall say what he didn't.

"The American people want this"?! Not hardly. If they did, there would be no debate. No, some American persons want that particular thing; others don't. Nothing could be more obvious. Yet politicians think I can be convinced by an appeal to some imaginary consensus they represent, while believing that their opponents are politically suicidal in opposing it.

The term has all the charm and inspirational ring of "the People's Democratic Republic of Stalinistan."

How democratic is it, really? To listen to what passes for "hard news," not very. Several who have the temerity to call themselves "reporters" say that the new Speaker's job is to rein in the TEA Party candidates elected by a majority of people in their districts. Democracy, it seems, is rule by establishment elites. In more straightforward language that's called "oligarchy."

The Romans were a bit more forthright in their political rhetoric. They declared that things were done in the name of the "Senate and People of Rome." They truthfully named the will of the politicians first. Under their patronage system it was obvious anyway.

We have our own patronage system. The guys in charge aren't usually in public office. Instead, they reside at Goldman Sachs. They're in all the major banks. They're in the major corporations, especially the munitions companies. These folks are the "American people" to which the politicians refer. They may have some minor disagreements, but are in unison on the major issues: have the common man bail them out from poor decisions; keep innovative competition down and the bonuses high.

Since the loss in November, leftists have been reprising a common refrain: the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh are inducing anger in an otherwise sedate and liberal public. It's what's on the airwaves, not any thinking of the American people, that is the cause of discontent. Yet Air America never managed to warm the public to the intense anger of Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. Anger doesn't seem to be so airborne after all.

Could it be that the American people are not blank slates? Perhaps they bring to bear their own thoughts and experiences? Nah!...That would negate the dominant theme of both parties — that the American people can be infinitely molded by whatever legislation they choose to enact and whatever bureaucracies they decide to impose.

Democratization of the press via the Internet challenges that paradigm. So there is discussion about regulating away our informational liberty. The goal of democratizing money is the major reason Ron Paul was attacked so vehemently from both left and right. For all the talk of democracy and the American people, those in power have much disdain for both.

The American people are a diverse bunch in virtually every respect. The attempt to rhetorically lump them together behind a political agenda denies that diversity. It seeks instead to impose a nonexistent homogeneity. The speaker has decided that he determines what the American people want and deserve.

Those who would lump us into "the American people" would also subcategorize us into discrete units, for the benefit of bureaucratic efficiency. The Department of Education attempted a test program some years ago. It sought to sort students into four consumer types, finding what particular sales pitch would be most effective on each. The information was to be shared with businesses, so that they could more effectively market their goods. Surely it would also have been used by politicians, to more carefully craft their gulling of "the American people."

(The program was piloted in Pennsylvania. Opposition from parents, who had to go through the FOIA process to learn anything about it, seems to have caused its cessation. Goes to show that even parents aren't "the American people.")

In music there is such a thing as a double sharp. A string instrument can hit notes that a piano, with its discrete steps, cannot. There are reasons a composer might want to use such a tone, though it violates the orderliness of the piano tuner and offends the obsessive categorizer. Just so, an individual may have excellent reason to chafe against the discrete categories imposed by an ever-growing bureaucracy.

I am an American person. There is no "American people" that adequately and completely represents my views. And I'm darn sure there is no politician whose coercive acts will meet with my approval. By claiming to have my tacit approval for their conceits, they merely prove to me that they either don't know what they're talking about, or they do and are diabolically mendacious.

© David Hines

 

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David Hines

Born in a mill town, David Hines has seen work as a furniture mover, computer programmer/analyst, and professional musician... (more)

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