Our diseased democracy
By Lady Liberty
Last week was a tough one for a couple of my friends. One of them was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had to have immediate surgery to remove the originating tumor, and she's now waiting to hear a recommended course of treatment dependent on the results of tests to determine the cancer's spread. As of today, her prognosis is reasonably good. In the most awful of coincidences, another friend was diagnosed with lung cancer just two days later. Her prognosis is less favorable. Though she's already commenced with chemotherapy treatments, surgery isn't an option because the cancer cells have already spread beyond her lungs and into her liver and her bones.
It's an unreasonable but inevitable fact that most of us, on hearing such news, begin to question all sorts of perfectly benign symptoms we feel or see in our own bodies. Is that stomach twinge indigestion or something worse? Is that chest pain a pulled muscle or a damaged heart making its presence felt? Is that funny looking spot on our leg just a spider vein or the outcroppings of some more malevolent growth? The positive aspect of all this is, of course, that we may actually find a genuine problem at an early and eminently treatable stage as a result of our temporary paranoia.
Most of us know that, if cancer is caught early, the treatment need not cause too much suffering. Lumpectomies, for example, are far less invasive and are often just as effective for the treatment of small and contained breast cancer masses as are the more disfiguring mastectomies. But having a breast removed or a colostomy, however traumatic, seems small potatoes in comparison to the inevitable alternatives! Chemotherapy might make you terribly sick and negatively impact your appearance temporarily (I can't think of a single woman I know who wouldn't be truly devastated at the thought of losing her hair), but again, the price pales in comparison to what will ensue without the treatment. Radiation isn't much fun, either, I'm told. But again, weigh the alternatives and radiation suddenly seems a perfectly acceptable option.
The point of all this is actually a fairly simple one: You do what you can to prevent the problem. But if the problem occurs, you deal with it as aggressively as need be to save your life or, if that's not possible, to give you the best quality of life for as long as possible before the end.
In the most simplistic of terms, many forms of cancer are simply collections (usually called tumors) of cancerous cells that grow together and then extend tendrils and migrating cells to invade and infect other areas of the body. If the cancers are diagnosed while they're still contained collections of cells, simple removal is often enough to effect a cure. But if the tendrils are winding about other parts and pieces of the body in complex networks of disease, and if cells have wondered off to infect distant organs, the treatment has to get more drastic. That doesn't necessarily mean the patient will die, but it does mean that the fight to live will be more difficult, more involved, and almost certainly engender more suffering along the way.
Of all the things that can be done to prevent cancer, though, and of all the things that might be employed toward a cure, there's one overriding factor. That, of course, is the will of the patient. Just as it takes willpower to quit smoking, it takes willpower to to tolerate the treatment for lung cancer. And more than that, it takes a will to live for any treatment to reach its full potential. We've all heard heard stories of those who might have survived what others did, but who succumbed in large part because of their own fears and the certainty of failure. We've all heard about those who doctors say should have died but who instead survived and thrived because they simply refused to lay down and give up.
If you've got medical problems or know somebody who does, I'm really not the person who ought to be giving you advice. I'm a fine cheerleader, but no kind of diagnostician or treatment guru. But the problems we have in our country today is another story. Where those are concerned, I do have a little advice, and that advice relates all too closely with the subject at hand.
You see, there's a cancer in this country. The primary malignant tumor is centered in a place called Washington, DC. Just like cancer, it's comprised of those who have little in common with the rest of the body, but who never-the-less insist on running things their way and who employ out-of-control growth to achieve their ends. The sickness has spread everywhere as the cancer of government has sent its tendrils into places the Constitution never intended. There's an alphabet agency for almost every possible arena of oversight, and there are regulations for just about every eventuality. These tendrils ensure that everyone everywhere is thoroughly enmeshed in bureaucracy.
With the tendrils of bureaucracy spreading far and wide as they have, little cells here and there have dispersed and started new cancerous colonies. They've alighted in places like New York and Los Angeles. They've spread their disease to the Pacific Northwest and to the Gulf Coast. They've replaced other healthier cells in cities large and small across the country. Thanks to Washington's insatiable demand for funds to maintain its parasitic presence, we now see smaller venues emulating the larger with such things as eminent domain for monetary gain and seizure of property from those merely arrested, conviction be damned.
State governments are now so strangled by federal tentacles that they're thoroughly cowed by the mere threat of withdrawn federal highway funds, and are quite literally unable to see to their own citizens in the event of an emergency (I'm thinking, of course, of the debacle of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina when state and local politicians drew almost as much heat as FEMA did for the lack of forethought concerning evacuations and disaster relief caused, in large part, by the fact that everything had to be routed through far too many channels).
Politicians lie, cheat, and steal, and yet somehow remain in office. They actively make exceptions to the idea of unalienable rights. And it's their actions that enable the cancer to continue to grow, and grow, and grow while the country — and freedom — gets sicker and sicker. But as metastasized as the government cancer may be, there's still some hope.
We, as individuals, might consider ourselves to be similar to the white blood cells our bodies use to fight off infection and other untoward invaders. We can write and call our politicians. We can write and call each other. Certainly, we can just plain refuse to cooperate. We can go to town council meetings and speak up when we see wrongdoing. And while our individual actions might not do a whole lot to cure or even appreciably shrink the cancer tumors, we can at the very least and even on the federal level have some small effect on the speed of its growth.
We, as groups, might call ourselves chemotherapy of a kind. Our collective efforts via boycotts, protest marches, petitions, and political action committees can make a real point with both the rest of the public and in local, state, and federal office buildings. The government cancer is already so bad that I don't expect grassroots chemotherapy to be any kind of a cure, but it sure as all get-out can start to shrink the tumors!
We, as voters, can be likened to radiation treatment. Radiation is nasty, nasty stuff unless it's aimed right where it needs to be. And then, while it sometimes causes peripheral burns, it also does quite a job on cancerous tissues. Voters can do exactly the same thing. We can obliterate some of the worst "seeds" of the disease by voting against the most sickening issues, and by voting the most malignant politicians right out of office. (By the same token, when voters aren't "aimed" properly, we can elect more really bad politicians and endorse more really bad regulations and programs. We ought to be more careful about that. Those getting burned will end up being you and yours sooner or later, probably sooner!)
Finally, we, as a whole, can act as surgeons. If the cancer is bad enough — and you had better bet that it is — we can act en masse to remove some of the worst of the cancer. We can refuse to cooperate with onerous programs like REAL ID. We can undermine every invasive program the TSA tries to implement by refusing to fly until the programs are targeted where they need to be instead of at us all. We can join the Minutemen and either actively help to patrol our vulnerable borders, or offer donations and other support to help those who can and are willing to do so. The opportunities to hack away at government largeness and largesse are many. Pick one (or several) and start slicing.
None of these things, though — not our bodies' natural defenses nor any outside treatment we might care to employ — will do much to mitigate or cure our medical problem if we have the wrong attitude. The same holds true for political activism, whether our gestures are large or small. In fact, right now, the activism of many Americans is most likely to be non-existent. There are far too many people who don't do much of anything because they're convinced that it just doesn't matter. They believe that, no matter what they do, freedom and democracy (such as it is) are already on the way out in this country.
I can't argue with those people in their belief that things are bad. The government cancer has clearly grown to a very, very dangerous extent. It's entirely possible that they're right, that there is no cure and that liberty is effectively doomed. But if the battle were on a smaller front, say in your own body, would you be so eager to simply give up and wait to die? I would hope not! I would hope that you'd fight until the end. I would hope that you'd not give up until you'd quite literally explored and exercised every option, and that you'd even hope for miracles in the knowledge that they do, albeit rarely, occur.
I think that, like me, you would fight, and you'd fight hard. That's as it should be. Life is, after all, sweet. But what is life without liberty? Can you honestly sit back and willingly do nothing to save, or at least prolong, liberty? Yes, there may be pain and sacrifice. But the sooner we get started, the sooner we can cure ourselves of the government cancer, or shrink it, or stave off its perhaps inevitable conclusion. And we can all remember that, while rare, miracles do occur. That this country exists at all is proof of that, and what happened once can happen again if only we've the courage to truly believe it.
For the record, both of the women I mention here are determined to fight. It will not likely be easy for either of them. Despite their most valiant efforts, it's possible that they will fail. But if they don't even try, the outcome isn't possible or even probable. It's certain. As a country, we're facing something more similar than I suspect we'd care to admit. I'd like to think that, singly or collectively, we've got the courage of my two friends to fight for something of such great value, too. Don't we?
Lady Liberty, a senior writer for ESR, is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at firstname.lastname@example.org.