Tuesday, December 18, 2007

On the Question of Legitimacy and Leadership

The essence of the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign is not that it's a color accessory. It's that it's a concrete manifestation of millions taking a public, daily political stand, openly taking the moral high road against the moral monsters in charge, and calling on others to do the same. It's an open challenge to the government's legitimacy to rule as it is.

It's a simple act powerful in its symbolism. It is individuals saying: "Here I stand. I can, in good conscience, do no other." It is millions of people taking personal responsibility to act, no longer waiting and waiting and waiting for someone else like the Democrats or the New York Times or CNN to do what must be done. It's people who have had it with complaining about why other people aren't acting and deciding that they will break the ice themselves and act, paving the way for others to do likewise. It's people recapturing and owning the power of the people and no longer relinquishing that power to others who are not fit to wield it.

Governments rule through two means: their ability to force people to do what they want them to do (coercion) and their legitimacy in the eyes of the people. While coercion is a government's ultimate argument - its last, unarguable argument - a government that relies mainly on coercion is a government that will not last long, for there aren't enough gendarmes and dungeons to hold the people who won't comply except at the point of a muzzle. Legitimacy is what keeps governments going. It's what keeps most of the people abiding. If enough people openly challenge a government's legitimacy, that government will surely fall. The GOP and the Democratic Leadership are in charge only as long as the fact that the majority of Americans want the war to end and oppose torture and tyranny isn't being openly expressed in a day-to-day way. Our government can only continue to do the morally monstrous things that they are doing hour by hour as long as the people remain politically paralyzed and continue to be political spectators. What millions wearing orange - and carrying out a multitude of other additional forms of resistance - would signify is that the government is not legitimate in their eyes. Undermining their legitimacy on this level and to that extent would have dramatic repercussions. We the people have a tremendous amount of power if we choose to use it.

Some people mistakenly think that the government could just crack down on all the people wearing orange and that would be that. The people as a whole would be silenced and the government would be able to carry on with their nasty deeds and plans. What that view misses is that if the government does crack down that way, this would also stir much wider and determined resistance to them and strip away the mantle of legitimacy from their actions that many people STILL feel. It would expose the government's illegitimacy and make their use of force illegitimate in the eyes of many and growing numbers of people. It would spell the government's eventual and likely not too distant end.

If it becomes clear that a majority of people don't see them as legitimate - clear in a public and explicit and unmistakable way - then the government is in grave danger of being toppled through a number of different ways - forced resignations, impeachment, conviction, constitutional crisis, etc. A majority of people want to see Bush and Cheney gone, but that majority sentiment isn't being expressed in a way that can create this situation. If 1% of the people, 3 million, were daily wearing orange two things would happen. First, it would lead to many others doing the same and those people would represent the majority sentiment and thereby drastically change the political atmosphere. Fox News, our government and their henchman would have to deal daily with powerful opposition to their lies. Second, wearing/displaying orange would foster and mutually reinforce other forms of resistance and rebellion. It would hearten the people who now feel isolated and alone and reveal that a majority want to get rid of this regime.

To effectively take on these moral monsters a competing, legitimate authority/leadership has to step forward. Millions wearing orange is a necessary and very practical way for that to happen. The people who step forward are in so doing altering the political equation. The current government is extremely vulnerable to being exposed as immoral and monstrous because of their deeds - torture, spying, lying, etc. But the means to truly expose the government for their horrid actions and to rally the people against them has not up to now been found. DIN/333 offers us this means. DIN and 333 are critical because they provide a vehicle for the millions who despise what's going on to show it and to become a material force.

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