War is coming. Not foreign but a war domestic, the war for control of Washington, D.C., in 2012. Look what hangs in the balance: energy and education policy, income and corporate tax rates, agriculture subsidies, environmental regulations, retirement pensions, the health care system, and more besides. Quickly! Quickly! To the blogs, to the streets, to the voting booth. Don’t yield an inch to the enemy. The future of the country is at stake!

My friends, this should not be so.

We are not naturally enemies of one another but neighbours. Yet we have allowed our political system to degenerate to such a degree that we now see one another primarily through the prism of party ideology, thus poisoning our relationships.

This degeneration stems from viewing the United States as one nation, one homogenous ‘people,’ rather than as a federation or league of separate communities, each with their own unique and separate identities: their own distinct religion, art, geography, dialect, history, economy, government, etc. The moment we lost sight of all these unique towns, parishes & counties, and states by focusing only on the individuals who live there and attempting to govern them all as one people who have identical interests (primarily from one capital), that is the moment disorder entered into our political system.

By nationalising so many local matters and then deciding them on the basis of a bare national numerical majority, rather than on the concurrence of the separate communities, we have created the atmosphere in which two parties dominate the entire Union, each vying fiercely for control of the federal government apparatus in order to enjoy the spoils of office and share them with their allies.

The potential power, wealth, and fame available to the rulers in D.C. turn men into beasts: ‘. . . falsehood, injustice, fraud, artifice, slander, and breach of faith, are freely resorted to, as legitimate weapons’ by the two parties and their supporters in order to obtain federal offices, said Calhoun in his slim but extraordinary work A Disquisition on Government. Anything is justified to gain power and implement the party agenda.

But with so much attention focused on the central government, the lives of those separate localities have become sclerotic, hollow, imbecilic. Nearly everything is imported — music, drama, clothing, crafts, food. There is hardly any local initiative or imagination left. The decay is now so advanced that we are often better acquainted with a politician in D.C. or an actor in Los Angeles than we are with the family living two minutes down the street.

We pledge allegiance to the nation, but this is backward: ‘Thought patriotism exists only as a lively attachment to the interests, manners, and customs of a locality, our self-announced patriots declared war on all these things. They dried up this natural fount of patriotism, and wished to replace it by a fictitious passion for an abstract being, a general idea, deprived of all that strikes the imagination and speaks to the memory.’ Benjamin de Constant, a perceptive writer of the 19th century, was speaking of the leaders of the French Revolution, yet his words apply with equal force to our own centralisers.

Why this desire of theirs to destroy local attachments? De Constant continued: ‘The interests and memories which are born from local habits contain a germ of resistance which authority only reluctantly endures and hastens to uproot. It has an easier road with individuals: it rolls its enormous weight over them as easily as over sand.’

Thus far the programme of the centralisers has been successful — obliterating our affection for anything local, drawing all eyes to the national capital, creating unnatural enemies from natural friends by herding us into one party or the other (Republicans vs. Democrats). But resistance is appearing at last: sporadic and scattered at present but growing stronger.

The lie of the consolidators — that we are one people comprising one nation governed from one city — deserves our scorn, not our neighbours. Once this is accepted, we can begin renewing our trust in and cooperation with one another; restoring federated government in accordance with the natural law principle of subsidiarity; and reviving la vie bonne in our neighbourhoods, one saint’s day feast, one artisan, one guild, one schoolhouse, one farm, one harvest festival, one folk dance at a time.

Walt Garlington
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