Just a Cock-Up Democracy or the Theory of Bush's Nose

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CommonDreams.org

Just a Cock-Up Democracy or the Theory of Bush's Nose

by
Steven Laffoley

In the study of history, the Cock-Up Theory argues that our collective past is the sum of important people's endless errors and many inadequacies. This idea is also called the Theory of Cleopatra's Nose, which argues that Cleopatra's prominent prow so enticed the Roman leader Marc Anthony that he lost track of business back home and let the Roman Empire collapse into chaos.Silly historiography, right?

Well, maybe.

You see, I once believed - before this recent Dark Age, before this unwieldy, unwanted 'Age of Unreason' - that American history was, in fact, crafted and created by 'We the People.' I believed that American history was born in a unique Age of Enlightenment democratic enterprise, a collective history earned in patriots' blood and stolen from thuggish, unruly kings. And though this history of 'We the People' was, admittedly, sometimes violent and sometimes dark, it was always a history that aspired to the 'better angels off our nature.' It was always a history that that pulled Americans through dark times toward noble goals. And it was always a history that provided all people a beacon on a hill.

I continued to believe this when, in November of 2000, our American history was presented with another daunting challenge to 'We the People,' when our democratic will was summarily dismissed by would-be kings. In the darkness that descended after our democratic will was ignored, I responded like so many to the 'angels of our better nature' and to the 'beacon on a hill' and carried my candle in the dark. I carried it against the rising, polarizing anger and protest of my fellow citizens. I wrote publicly, again and again, against the wrongs of democratic denial, and against the press of Pax Americana in the post 9/11 bloodlust, and against the rising enthusiasm for regulated, narrow definitions of human rights that threatened the return kings to America.

And even though that darkness seemed hopeless, sometimes oppressive, 'We the People,' continued to carry those candles. We insistently kept adding, drop-by-drop, to the bucket of rational thinking until, in November of 2006, the bucket seemed, finally, to tip.

Early that November, in a heady return to rational thinking, 'We the People,' by a two a two to one margin, said loudly and clearly that we wanted no more of these nonsensical wars and no more of this ridiculous rhetoric. 'We the People' upended the House and overturned the Senate, voting for those that would end this ugly Age of Unreason, voting for those that would bring light back to America. And when those votes were finally counted - and the agents of darkness skittered away in fear, one by one, back under the rocks from where they came - 'We the People' celebrated the return of American history to the American people. So, relieved, I put down my candle, set aside my pen, and returned to my life.

But then reason didn't come. And our history didn't change. In fact, the ugly war just continued. And the king just kept on smiling. And 'We the People' watched in horror while thousands more American soldiers were sent to fight and die in a war that Americans did not want. And we watched in horror while bombs built in our name rained down, in equal measure, on the innocent and on the damned. And against our collective will and against the desire to control our collective history, 'We the People' watched in horror while the dying and the darkness created by an upstart king inexplicably continued.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

We were all stunned. I then found, in my despair, that my candle would not light again and that my pen had gone dry. For months I sat and wondered: what had happened to the light and to 'We the People'? I wanted to know: what had happened to our American history?

That's when it occurred to me. Was it possible that American history no longer belonged to Americans, no longer belonged to 'We the People'? Was it possible that American history had become nothing more than a Cock-Up Democracy, that we Americans were so beguiled by Bush's Nose - beguiled by the nonsensical notions of how to fight this wrong-headed war instead of whether to fight this wrong-headed war, beguiled by the election of politicians who, once in office, flatly ignored our will - that we let the Republic slip through our fingers? Was it possible that we let the noble history of 'We the People' give way to the silly history of endless errors and many inadequacies of our upstart king?

My faith then was so deeply shaken that I didn't have an answer.

And yet, over time, I again found some of that faith - after all, I am an American. But in truth the ultimate answers to these troubling questions depend on 'We the People,' of course. They depend on whether or not 'We the People' continue to be beguiled by the noses of kings.

Sadly, it is not yet time to extinguish our candles or set aside our pens because 'We the People' still have a history to reclaim.

Steven Laffoley ( stevenlaffoley@yahoo.ca) is an American writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of Mr. Bush, Angus and Me: Notes of an American-Canadian in the Age of Unreason, and Hunting Halifax: In Search of History, Mystery and Murder.

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