Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

In addition to cookouts, a 10-cent spike in gas prices and sales, Memorial Day is set aside to show gratitude for those who laid down their lives in defense of American freedoms. Perhaps in part because I just spent a good deal of time in a country that was a dictatorship three years before I was born, or maybe because I've started thinking about my novel again and this is one of the themes in it, but two words I'd never expect to hear in the United States are "military coup."

Military coups are probably the fastest and most effective ways to bring about a regime change, and can be bloodless if done properly (see: Russia). In many countries, the military is the only body that comes close to holding the power to repel large numbers of attackers. Even in the US, with our 2nd Amendment freedoms, a "citizen militia" would have a hard time standing up to even a small portion of the US army. We have the most advanced army in the world, and I can say that without an ounce of jingoism. It's a fact.

But I don't sit up at night wondering if some general will all of a sudden decide that Bush, or Clinton, or whomever our next president might be, is unworthy to lead the country and storm Washington and take over. It's something that's inconceivable, and it's only after thinking about Spain as an example that I've hit on a reason why. Or reasons.

Part of it, I think, is actually bureaucracy. My conservative friends are probably reading this and thinking I've cracked (or are hitting Michelle Malkin in their bookmarks menu), but an overwhelming bureaucracy makes taking control by force a far more difficult prospect then if government were smaller.

Another part is that our power, at least compared to some countries, is fairly decentralized - and by that, I mean states have a pretty large degree of autonomy. Sure, we rely quite a bit on the federal government for funding (some states more than others - and here's a surprise, blue states often pay more into the tax pool while red states take more out. True story.) But if necessary, Washington could stand on its own. And so could many states. Rhode Island might have some problems, but if necessary they could just become part of Massachusetts. My apologies to any Rhode Islanders or Massachusans reading the Puppet Show tonight.

And part of it too is the role our military plays. Ivory-tower liberal arguments about the military-industrial complex aside, my experience is that a good deal of American soldiers really do believe they are doing good and spreading the shining light of American democracy. Aside from a few movies (The Rock), I just don't see the American military overthrowing the President anytime soon.

And honestly, that's a good feeling. Say what you will, but I like the democracy we've established here. I had one of those moments driving back from getting my brother's birthday present today: I like America a whole lot, and it's not just because I live here. Sure, there's a lot of other places that are interesting and I'd like to visit. But I can't really think of many I'd want to live other than the place where the money is green(ish), I can play whatever video games I want, and make inane posts like this on the Internet from the comfort of my own home.

Maybe Canada, but that's a different story.

1 comment:

David M Jacobs said...

Out of historical interest, you might want to check out the Business Plot, an aborted coup to topple FDR in 1933. Wikipedia has a decent article on it, and links to scanned transcripts of the House Un-American Activities Committee inquiry into the Plot.