William A. Hainline: Reality Engineer

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Democracy 2.0?

So, Donald Trump's edition of the federal budget is out, and it's as Draconian and cruel as you might expect. It slashes programs that poor people depend upon, right when they need those programs the most; it is hateful in the extreme, and it does away with funding for the arts and sciences alike. Oddly, and in perhaps a cruel twist of fate — and cue the Schadenfreude in the extreme — the people who will be most affected by Trump's latest display of malice and cruelty are going to be the people who voted for him. That's right: The people who are most likely to be affected by Trump's proposed budget cuts are the same people who voted him into office, the poor and those in rural areas. It would be funny if it weren't so goddamn inhuman and tragic, so horrible and evil. And yes, evil is the word for it. And, what's worse, is that these will also be the people most affected if Obamacare is repealed, which is terrible. These people will first be subjected to cuts in programs that benefit them and that they need in order to survive; and then, they'll have their healthcare either stripped away from them, or, have their premiums raise so high that they'll be unable to afford them; even if they get their healthcare from their employer, they'll still be affected negatively. The truth is, a lot of people are going to die because of this evil man's evil policies, and he doesn't care. And, he doesn't give a tinker's damn that the people who are going to die in the highest numbers are the people who put him in office, the people whose good will he rode into power upon. He doesn't care one bit.

But that's also what happens when you have too many people dependent on "the System" for subsistence. I should know; I'm one of those people. (I'm not one of the people who voted for Trump, mind you; I voted for Hillary, because I believe in sane and compassionate leaders, not sociopathic ones.) No, I'm one of the poor folks who is stuck on public assistance and who is hanging on by his fingernails for survival. Trump thinks I don't deserve to do so, though. No, he thinks that I deserve to die. Obviously he thinks this, or he wouldn't have released a budget — or crafted a "healthcare" plan (more like a "doesn't care" plan, if you ask me) — that explicitly tells me to go screw myself and die in the gutter.

According to Trump, and the current speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, I don't deserve to live. I don't deserve the meager existence I am allowed to achieve on public assistance. Instead, it would seem he thinks that I deserve, intrinsically and inherently, simply because of who — what — I am, to have less than everyone else. Not because I didn't try to work (I did, for years) and not because I don't want to work now (I would've liked to continue working, and would love the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society). It's not because I don't have a lot to offer the world (I think I do). No, simply because. I don't fit in with their Ayn Randian view of the world, where only movers and shakers get to survive and prosper. They tell me with their budget and priorities that I am less; I am worthless; I am nothing. Therefore, I don't get to live. I am a drain, a burden on others, a useless thing. They tell me I am deserving only of death, and of being tossed under the wheels of society and ground into fine powder. I am to be discarded and thrown away, because I am differently-abled. I am different, and therefore, I have no place in their world of big fat cigars and crooked congresscritters.

Which brings me to my next point.

Our elected representatives — including the current President — do not understand that we demand honesty, integrity, and transparency from them because they WORK FOR US. They don't understand that they're SERVANTS. They truly don't grasp the concept of civil service, and that their job is to PROVIDE that service; to do what we ask of them; to look out for our best interests in addition to their own. They don't comprehend the concept that their job — their whole purpose in going to work every day — is to cater to the needs and desires of the people who elected them. That's us.

Instead, they spend all of their time catering to special interests and corporations. These are fictional people; in other words, people who only exist on paper. The real people — the people who, by and large, pay their salaries with their hard-won tax dollars — mostly live in paycheck-to-paycheck, go without healthcare or basic necessities, and suffer enormous deficits in fair credit, lending, job opportunities — oftentimes on the basis of sexual and racial discrimination — while they sit there, catering to corporate will, the rich, and others in power. They ignore the plight of the decent, hardworking men and women who voted them into office. It's disgusting, unfair. and morally repugnant . . . and it's broken. The system — our government — is broken. It needs fixing. And the only way to do that is to update it. To attack it at the level of the source code, the most basic level. But in order to do that, we need to change that source code; we need to go back to our founding document, the Constitution, and change that, at its core, in order to update it so that our government once again works for us instead of against us.

One of the problems with our current government is that it was never meant to grapple with many of the social issues facing us today: The rise of the mass media and the speed of modern journalism; instant communications between individuals and groups; the idea of the never-ending political campaign; corporate personhood and corruption; identity politics; political factions run amok; the rise of global capitalism and globalism in general; the Internet breaking down so many societal, regional, and national barriers; the demise of gender, racial, and other social barriers; the rise of feminism; the corruption of law enforcement; the growing specter of white nationalism and other fascist movements; the radicalization of various religious sects and movements; I could go and on, and on, and on. Our Constitution and our Founding Fathers' vision for our country was brilliant, and, well, visionary . . . but it was not all-encompassing, nor was it the be-all, end-all solution to every conceivable problem we might encounter in the present day. It needs improving. It needs a makeover. It needs us. It needs revisiting and revision. For instance, with the rise of the Internet and secure online transactions, there's no reason why we can't have more of a direct democracy now; a world in which everyone votes, referendum-style, on a plethora of issues facing our communities, our cities, our states, our federal government. For another instance: Congress still uses paper to do almost everything. Let that sink in for a moment. Paper. They still use paper to do almost everything. This is the twenty-first century, and they still use paper to do almost everything. Can you tell me what could be more wasteful and time-consuming? What could be more arrogantly wasteful and time-consuming? And that's just two examples of things that need changing. There are others. We are living in the future, right now. We can change this. We can change the system we've engineered. Because it is an invention. it is, after all, a piece of engineering, a machine. It's all a big device. "Society" is the applied technology of the theories of political science. That's all it is. All we need to do is change the implementation protocols. It's all right there in front of us, if only we have the courage to come together and get some crap done. We must re-engineer our government, from the bottom-up, from the code-level up, if you will. Because if we want to change the System, we must start with the source code.

Luckily, our Founding Fathers left us a way to do that, via the process of Constitutional amendments. Over the years, there have been many amendments to our Constitution. The Bill of Rights is the most famous set of them; it enshrines our most important freedoms — such as the right to free speech, the right to peaceably assemble, the freedom of religion, freedom from unreasonable search and seizures, the right to due process, etcetera — and the other amendments do other important things: There's one that ended slavery, one that gave women the right to vote, and one that gave us the right to elect our senators rather than have them appointed by state legislatures. What we need now is a whole new set of amendments that grapple with modern social issues. First and foremost, we need an amendment that sets forth a set of Principles of Equality, wherein we declare that every man and woman on Earth — not just in America, but everywhere — is equal to every other, regardless of race, gender, sexual preference, gender identity, religion, creed, color, economic status, or nationality, and that we affirm that we recognize the freedoms guaranteed under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights as belonging to all people, of all nationsperiod, full-stop . . . and that we brook no compromises on that idea. All people, everywhere, equals. Further, we need an amendment that sets forth a standard of protections against discrimination based on the standards of equality set forth in the previous amendment — just in case there's any misunderstanding about those principles, to act as a double-safeguard against infringement. However, we would need an amendment which leaves the right to decide how those protections are implemented up to the individual states, on the condition that they were implemented to a reasonable minimum standard. This would ensure that a standard of federalist separation of powers between the states and the federal government was maintained.

We also need amendments which re-engineer certain aspects of our political society. Starting with the duties and responsibilities of our congresscritters and their loyalties to the People first and foremost; rules that govern the proper roles of lobbyists in crafting legislation; new guidelines that enshrine the freedom and the sacrosanctity of the press as the "fourth estate," to curb the abuses that we've seen administrations like Trump's carry out against the press. We also desperately need an amendment that ensures the continued freedom and openness of the Internet and our telecommunications systems. One important distinction that we need, that I feel an amendment could provide, is one that separates individual from corporate personhood; such a definition could also have important bearing on the never-ending "abortion" debate, as well. (I'm strongly "pro-choice," if you're wondering; I simply feel that we need to cut-off the deadly "pro-lfie" people before they can use this wedge issue any further.) We further need an amendment that further guarantees the right to peaceably protest, in addition to the protections which the first amendment already offers, and that preserves the proper role of — and protects against the overreach of — law enforcement; this would help law enforcement and protestors respect each other's roles when it came time for the two to meet on the playing field of political action. We need an amendment as well that preserves the sanctity of our elections from interference by corporate power — in other words, one that combats the influence of the dreaded Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court — and one that ensures the fairness and openness of our elections and that protects us from the corruption of "big money" being involved in them. Hell, if you ask me, we also need mandatory voting in our country, and to declare Election Day a national holiday so that everyone is guaranteed the right to vote, barring no one from participating in elections, even convicted felons. (Yes, I believe in second chances, and I believe that everyone should vote. Everyone.) These are just some of the changes we need to make to our Constitution.

However, the process for amending our Constitution is a long and messy one. One way to do it is for two-thirds of the state legislatures to agree to a Constitutional Convention. If the states vote to call a Convention, then they do so, and can vote on an amendment directly. If they vote and the amendment passes, then voilà, we have a new amendment to the Constitution. End of story. But to date, no amendments have been passed this way. The usual way it's done is thus: First, any proposed amendment has to go through both houses of Congress; either house can propose the amendment as a joint resolution. And, in order for it to pass, said joint resolution must be approved by a two-thirds supermajority in both the House and the Senate. Since the President has no role in the amendment process, the joint resolution, if Congress approves it, does not have to go to the White House for approval like a normal bill does. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) then forwards the newly-approved amendment to all fifty states. Next, the proposed amendment, along with any information prepared by the Federal Register, is mailed directly to all fifty states' Governors. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their state legislatures (or, the State calls for a Convention). Now and then, one or more of the state legislatures will vote on proposed amendments before receiving official notification from the Archivist. If the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (38 out of the 50) approve, or “ratify” the proposed amendment, then finally, it becomes part of the Constitution. Huzzah!

Now granted, that's a lot of hurdles for any potential amendments to have to clear. Especially when you consider the number of amendments we're talking about, and the nature of those amendments. These are not small issues, nor are these trivial ideals which we're attempting to enshrine into Constitutional law. No, these are lofty goals to set our sights on, and they require us, as a People, to be acutely aware of our moral alignment as a nation, of where we want our country to go now and in the future, of the direction in which we want our nation to travel, insofar as its general character is concerned. To that end, before any such amendments can even be considered, we need to change the political landscape in Washington considerably — meaning that we need to elect a far better Congress than the one we currently have. Our currently Republican-controlled House and Senate need a good cleaning-out party, and at the very least, need handing over to a Democratic (or even Independent) supermajority with strong Democratic (or Independent) leadership coming from a Democratically (or Independently) controlled White House (even though the White House has no real role in the amendment-making process, it would help to have them in our corner). In order to do this right, we first need strong Democratic and Independent House and Senate candidates who are eminently electable, which means grooming those candidates at the local level first. This means that we need to run candidates for everything from local mayors, to school board leaders, from defense attorneys to judges, from county clerks to sheriffs, and from various administrative staff to state legislators. We need to groom progressive Democratic and Independent candidates at the local and state levels and run them tirelessly, and then prep them for federal office and then run them at those levels later on. Rinse, repeat. This is a long game that needs to be played with an end-goal that is years in the future, but that is kept firmly in sight and focused, on-target, at all times, that goal being to elect a forward-thinking, progressive government, purging regressive thinkers and getting rid of old-guard conservative thinking. Then and only then can we begin the real work of reforming our government at the source-code level, the work of amending our Constitution so that Democracy 2.0 is possible in reality.

Because it is possible. We can change our government and make it work for us again rather than working for just the rich, the corporations, and special interests. We can take back our country from the moneyed interests that have stolen it from us, who have hijacked our senators and congressmen and who have wrested away control of the System from those who rightfully should control it—"we the People." We can once again steer our ship of state for ourselves, and make our congresscritters answer to us, and not the corporate world that currently directs and commands their attentions and political fortunes. We voted them into office; let's remind them of who their bosses really are, shall we? Let's take back control, starting at the local level, starting with our communities and municipalities, our cities and our states. Then let us move upward, and take on the federal government, and then, let us attack the source code, the actual foundational principles of the government itself, and make lasting changes to the System itself so that it works for the People and their "general welfare," not against it, just like Article One says it should.

The goal is not just getting "fired up, ready to go," to use Obama's words. The goal is firing the useless politicians and bureaucrats who have rigged the system in their own favor and who have stacked the deck against the common good of the People. The goal is being able to one day look the corrupt politicians of our current System in the eye and tell them, “STFU. We have something better than you, now. Clean out your desk. We don’t want or need you anymore.” And so we can tell the occupant of the White House, “Hey. You. You’re fired.” Because that really would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? To tell him that? To fire his orange butt, to kick him to the curb, to cut him out of our collective anatomy like the useless appendix that he is? We could, you know. (Fire him, that is. I'm not in favor of cutting people out of our collective anatomies, because . . . eeww, gross.) We hired him, after all. He is a public servant. He serves at our pleasure, at our disposal. I mean, I get why he was elected. He was elected because people were fed up. Angry. Pissed off and hungry for change. The trouble is, when you elect a bull to manage your China shop, crap's gonna get broken. Bigly. And that’s what Trump is — he’s a bull managing a China shop. A rampaging, angry, senseless bull who’s horny and looking for a cow to get busy with. And he’s headed for the granny in the spotted dress who’s currently shopping on aisle six. And he must be stopped. The only way to do that is through action. 

So for now, though, as pertains to the current President, what can we do but Resist and protest? We have no other choice. His weakness is that he thinks we will roll over and just take it. Let's not do that. Let's speak up, and let our voices be heard. Contact your congresscritters. Call the capitol switchboard and contact your representatives and senators; tell them to vote "NO" on Trump's budget and on Trumpcare. If they get enough of those calls, they'll sure as hell listen to the volume and the numbers even if they don't like the message they're receiving. Also, write to your senators and representatives. That helps, too. Express yourself with eloquence and logical argument. Use facts as weapons. Organize friends and associates.

And—run for local office. Run for school board. Run for county clerk. Run for Congress! Hell, you’ve got a shot. Anybody’s got a shot. (Hell, if Trump can get elected… anybody can get elected.) And if you don’t want to run for office, volunteer to help somebody who does want to run. Offer to run a phone bank, or print up signs, or go door-to-door and knock. Offer to gather signatures. Put together petitions for worthy causes that you believe have a chance. Or start a political blog and try to gain some traction that way for a cause that you’re interested in, and try to maybe put together a mailing list for like-minded people. Get together with friends and discuss issues and develop a plan of action for resistance that includes maybe some or all of the above. Download the Indivisible Guide to Resisting Trump, and read what it has to say. There’s all kinds of ways to change the System from within, if only you know how to get started. By working together, one person at a time, one connection at a time, we can set the roof of this mofo on fire, and once it’s burning, well . . . we don’t need no water.

So that’s my two-cents. Constitutional Convention maybe later, positive political action right now. Resist. Do what you can to make the world brighter. And remember: He’s a bull in a China shop, headed for the granny on aisle six. Yank the bull’s tail. Give granny a fighting chance.