“Go ahead and hate your neighbor

Go ahead and cheat a friend

Do it in the name of Heaven

You can justify it in the end

There won’t be any trumpets blowing

Come the judgment day

On the bloody morning after

One tin soldier rides away”

  -Brian Potter / Dennis Earle Lambert

The world can be a strange and terrifying place.  Sometimes, what we think is vastly different from what is actually happening before our own eyes.  Facts get lost in passion. Passion gets lost in the quest for glory.  In a restaurant on the waterfront, here in Atlantic Highlands, a story was told about a country and how it changed dramatically and quickly.  Spending time in emerging nations, one sees this all the time.  Government attitudes can change on whims.  One day you are a welcomed guest, the next you run for your life. 

So, as the story goes, the country had free and fair elections and a pretty good, not perfect, democratic-like system.  They spoke of equality among sexes and races.  They talked about fairness and civility. There was always crime, but violent crime was at a low. The government took care of the poor and sick and immigrants were welcomed , provided they came legally.   The country was concerned about its neighbors.  Seemed like a nice place. 

One election year, a new man came to power.  He appealed to the poor, and those that felt left out, the self-exiled.  He spoke to them, and them alone, and their ranks swelled.  This man had a bad reputation in the village where he lived and people from that area did not want to see him govern the country.  But he had a good line, and some decided that it could not be that bad, were he to be elected to lead.  During the campaign scandals surfaced.  The candidate said things on camera that gave some of the people pause.  There were infidelities that startled some but resonated with others.  “What a viral man to have so many beautiful women.” They thought.  Then there were stories that he was not a patriotic citizen at all and was getting help from an adversarial country.  But many of the people did not care.  Some of their villages were impoverished because there was no work.  The candidate promised to help them.  Some of the other villages were enamored with his air of strength and power.  The candidate, despite much of the country’s steadfast opposition, became El Presidente.  

Slowly, over years, the country changed. The tolerance and fairness slowly eroded and was replaced by prejudice and hate.  Racist hate groups took to the streets and battlelines were drawn. Riots ensued.  Extremism took hold and common sense died.  Facts and history were replaced by deluded fantasies and lies.  A steady stream of extremist propaganda streamed into every house, in every village and was so repetitious and expansive some of the villagers believed the craziest of conspiracies. 

El Presidente became emboldened and installed his acolytes and sycophants into his inner circle.  Protests were allowed but greeted with violent retribution.  Dissention was not tolerated.  Social safety nets were all but dissolved, as were environmental protections. Personal freedoms were shrinking.  The economy soared and the wealthy became wealthier through friendly governmental policies.  But then a natural catastrophe crushed the economy.   The next election, the people did not reelect El Presidente.  Immediately, he cried foul.  He had been cheated!  He called for inquiry after inquiry and no chicanery was found.  He lost the election.  But, like all authoritarians, he vowed to return with bigger and better benefits for the people and a return to the old way.  His people revolted and there was violence, but they were repressed.  Loudly, they vowed to bring a civil war if El Presidente was not reinstated. 

Years went by with the former El Presidente chiming in on the current regime and his loyal sycophants attempting to discredit these new people.  Of course, his villagers believed him.  But, fewer than before. 

Former El Presidente held big events and was infuriated when fewer and fewer villagers came to see.  He told those that came out what he promised to do for them when he was back in control:

  • Former El Presidente claimed that drug dealers are responsible for many deaths each year in villages across the country and the only way to deal with the problem was a very quick trial and death-penalty sentence for drug dealers, and it would not take years in court.
  • “If radical politicians at the estado and village levels refuse to protect public safety and instead turn criminals on the loose to prey on the innocent, then the federal government will have no choice but to step in, not wait for the Gobernadores anymore,”
  • Former El Presidente talked of building Tent Cities for the countries homeless in some out of the way place.  The homeless would be herded up and sent to camps outside of major cities. “No civilized society turns over its public spaces to be dominated by drug addicts and the homeless no matter what the reason may be,” He roared to the cheering crowd.
  • He said that he would close the country’s borders, “because many of these people that are coming in will cause trouble for this country, the likes of which you have no idea, including terrorists sending people into our country that will cause problems for us for decades.” He bellowed
  • “We will pass historical civil service reforms to ensure that non-performing federal bureaucrats may be fired in a relatively short amount of time rather than it taking years and years. (and replace them with political appointees.)”

Many of the people new what he meant we he spoke.  Others nodded and cheered not understanding the ramifications.  The villagers that could see through the rhetoric realized that the summary execution of “drug dealers’ without an appeal process, or very limited appeals process, would evolve until there would be executions by political fiat as in other countries. Then no one would be safe, not the villagers, rival politicians, people of different beliefs or ethnicity, nobody. 

When Former El Presidente spoke of sending Federal troops to help out villages and estados that did not or could not quell protests/riots or other difficulties, the people knew that this was just an excuse for governmental crackdowns on those that would not conform or dissented against the policies of Former El Presidente. 

The villagers shook their heads in disbelief as he spoke of High Quality Tent Cities set up in places outside of the larger villages and cities for the homeless.  They knew that he really meant that his loyalists would round up undesirables and bring them to camps to help them, reeducate and recenter them.  It had been done before in Europe, long ago.   

He wanted to close the borders not because the people that came were bad, but they were different than his idea of what a citizen should look like.  It was also a way to control his villagers and the estados.

The people were chilled by Former El Presidente’s decision to pass laws allowing Civil Servants to be fired and replaced by whim.  Those that worked for the people would disappear unless they pledged loyalty to Former El Presidente. 

The people of villages and estados that were not moved by his speech vowed that they would come out in droves to vote to prevent his reelection. 

In the real world, in the United States, we often think only of current issues and problems and want immediate solutions.  Our gas prices are too high, don’t sanction Russia!  Our grocery prices are too high, its your fault make it stop, I don’t care how.  I can’t fix my house because of environmental restrictions, remove them now!   And we vote based on issues that impact us on the day that we pull the lever in the voting booth.  We rarely think bout the ramifications of the policies that politicians latch onto to woo a vote.  We hear what we want to hear and, as a rule, never question the true motives behind them. 

Before we all get our backs into tackling the immediate issues, lets take a breath and think “WIFT”.  WIFT translates to “What’s in it for them?”   Rarely are things what they seem.  Nothing is ever strictly black and white, and “X” never marks the spot. 

Before you go to the voting booth this next election cycle, do a little homework.  They lie to us daily with crazy conspiracies and promises that seem to be the answers to our secret needs.  On some level, we all know that most of those promises never will happen, but hope drives us on.  Look into your candidates, their promises, the platform or lack of platform of their party. Ignore slanted news and social media.  Dissect their speeches and translate what they really mean.  We often make it far too easy for the avaricious and power mad to get into office as we hang on every word as if it were set in stone. 

It is sad that we can no longer believe what we are being told by those in power.  Now, in this juncture of time, we must make our own decisions, or we become the country described above.  It can happen, even out here in the fields.

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