In1967, a group of Greek army colonels, fed up with the country’s established politicians, staged a coup d’etat. The military officers ruled the way military dictators always rule—they suspended freedom of speech and assembly along with due process and other freedoms long taken for granted.
In 1974, though, something very strange happened: The colonels called in the same politicians who had been jailed or exiled in the 1967 coup and, in exasperation, essentially begged them to take back power. There had been a war that went badly in Cyprus, and university demonstrations, among other problems, and the military officers realized they were in way over their heads—or, put it this way: more incompetent than the supposedly incompetent rulers that had been toppled. The old, previously discredited politicians were welcomed back with huge public demonstrations of joy and appreciation.
I often think about the 1974 events in Greece, especially with hostility to politicians so in vogue during our current presidential election. (The Greek dictatorship got a lot of attention in the U.S. back in the late 60s and early 70s, with its large Greek population, and was popularized with a riveting movie I remember well—“Z”.)
Many Americans are taken with Donald Trump simply because he’s not a politician, as if that automatically qualifies him to assume the highest office in the land. Because he’s not a politician, the reasoning goes, he will have the guts to shake things up enough to “make America great again.”
It’s a seductive narrative to think that politicians are inherently incompetent. But it’s also important to realize that politicians do perform important tasks. They oversee the machinations of government to ensure roads and bridges get built, fires get put out, a semblance of law and order prevails, public schools educate kids, that there’s a military to defend the country from outside invaders, that the financial system is reasonably transparent, among other things. They often need to compromise with colleagues from different parts of their states, or country, to make sure various tasks get carried out.
No question, they’ve screwed up a lot of things here. Some have lined their own pockets while handling their duties. Many have abused power on behalf of corporate contributors, and we’ve seen the results in the arena of natural farming, via regulatory assaults and crackdowns, and favoritism shown to corporations like Monsanto and Tyson Foods.
But simply blowing up the entire system isn’t likely the answer. Such an answer implies that any alternative is better than what we have now. It also implies the current system is beyond redemption.
It’s definitely not the answer if that alternative is Donald Trump, and his form of tyranny. We know that from his history. He is tyrannical in running his business, running roughshod over suppliers, daring them to sue him. (I’ve dealt with people like Trump in my own businesses and learned pretty quickly to not deal with his type without being paid in advance.) He’s run roughshod over women, sexually assaulting them and daring them to do something about it. He’s proposed running roughshod over Muslims and Mexicans. He’s made clear via promotion of his own businesses during the campaign that he’d make previous politicians who lined their pockets look like pikers.
He’s also made clear his contempt for the U.S. Constitution by declaring himself prepared to suspend the rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights of the first ten amendments. He’s talked about maneuvering his own generals into key positions, which is military dictator talk. Moreover, there would likely not ever be an opportunity to vote him out, because he would never voluntarily give up power (certainly not to a “rigged” electoral process he now decries and in the middle of a terrorism “emergency” he likely would declare, and never end).
What’s especially ironic is his complaint that the media are doing him in. It’s the mainstream media that made Donald Trump the serious contender for the presidency that he is today. How many times have CNN and Fox and other media held their collective breaths waiting for the latest pearl of wisdom from a Donald Trump press conference or speech? He’s received many millions of dollars in free publicity. How does he express his gratitude? By singling the media out as the enemy, and essentially threatening to get even once he is elected—most likely by seeking to reduce freedom of the press.
I hold no special brief for Hillary Clinton. She is the conventional politician, two-faced, lying, lining her pockets. Much like the Greek politicians forced out by the military coup in 1967. But she’s a known commodity, and one thing we know is that she isn’t a tyrant. Conventional politics aside, she appreciates the dangers Trump represents, as when she said on Sunday: “I’m the only thing that stands between you and the apocalypse.”
One last point: as bleak as our politics appear, I’d argue those who have tried to encourage more locally produced food have had significant success over the last decade. There are more pockets around the country where producers of good food have multiplied, and are doing well, and fewer examples of heavy-handed government interference in food production. I think that’s because more politicians have come to realize that sabotaging local food producers isn’t a recipe for winning votes.
It was Winston Churchill who said back in 1947 that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
The American Revolution grew out of a desire to be free of a tyrant ruler—King George of Great Britain. We definitely don’t want to be in the position of fighting yet again to be free of a modern-day tyrant.
The underlying problem, of course, isn’t Donald Trump. He simply personifies the frustrations that large numbers of people feel about the abuses of our political and social system. If he loses, and the problems aren’t deal with, another version of Trump will almost surely happen along.
The system needs huge amounts of change, and a big part of that is getting government out of the lives of real food producers and other productive Americans, and reducing the influence of big corporations on the decisions politicians make. Hopefully America’s politicians have been forewarned by the terrifying election experience America has gone through this summer and fall. But if change is to happen, it will have to be politicians who clean up the mess.