You know, it is awfully difficult to get people to stay quiet about anything. When it's a particularly juicy bit of information that has the potential to embarrass vast numbers of people, then it's a complete impossibility.
Heck, I've blurted out stuff without meaning to just because I was having a "stupid" day. On the other hand I'm sure there are plenty of things going on in government that none of us know a thing about.
The thing is, they're all terribly, terribly boring.
It's hard to get people interested in things they really should know about, like how the budget works, and where our taxes go, and how, oh, I don't know, a huge program like Medicaid can help people with low incomes and health problems, but no-one can work out how to get the benefits (the previous set of instructions was so complicated that people shied away from it in huge numbers, so the new ones are supposed to be easier to understand).
Believe me, people would much rather read about conspiracies and scandals and things that, while juicy, have no real effect on our lives than try to wade through ten hours of speeches on C-Span and/or attempting to find out how exactly one does apply for a grant to revitalize one's crumbling neighbourhood.
Most Americans can't even name most (not even all) of the original Bill of Rights, let alone actually understand what those rights are.
(I can't, either, but I'm sure I can name more than some people and I'm giving them a pass on all the amendments.)
Yet somehow, everyone knows about the fake moon landing and Paris Hilton's sex tape (no, I don't think they're connected, but you never know).
I'm not even talking about the government programs so complicated and obtuse that they appear to have been written by a rat on crack dancing across a keyboard.
(And, for all I know, rats may have an excellent grasp on government policy.)
I'm as guilty of MEGO as anyone else when confronted with the inner workings of the US government, you know. I think I slept through my High School Civics classes, though my complete lack of knowledge about US policy didn't stop me from refusing to write a letter of admiration to then-president (and then-alive) Ronald Reagan. I protested that I shouldn't be made to write something I didn't believe in, and that my rights were being trampled when I was threatened with an F for the assignment if I didn't do it.
I'd missed the whole "in loco parentis" bit in class, so it wasn't until I protested that I was apprised that minors in a public school do not have the same civil rights as adults.
So, I got an F on that assignment.
The right to protest is one thing we all think we understand though, isn't it? Most forms of protest are pretty basic - marching, chanting cheap snappy slogans, and making impassioned speeches based on poorly researched facts. Some get violent - the Watts riots, the Rodney King riots, and basically, any form of protest that occurs in Los Angeles. Some are disemminated as irritating chain letters that demand you forward the chain to ten of your friends, or the little kittens/puppies/disadvantaged children/Ted Kennedy will die.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the goofier kinds of protest - the guys drumming for peace in Lafayette Park, the chick who climbed up into a tree and refused to come down, and, especially, the fringe nutters who believe the Guv'mint is coming after them with the black helicopters any day now.
(Actually, I think the black helicopters are funded by the individual States; the Federal government is probably still using black school buses because Bertha in Finance refuses to sign the acquisition form.)
The people I have heard talk about the heady days of the 'Sixties all seem to come back to the idea that it was cool to be an outsider. The "fake moon landing/Hilary Clinton murders people who get in her way/9-11 was masterminded by Bush/Katrina was a plot by the Bush administration to kill black people" assholes are the leftovers from a generation that eventually realized pubic lice and sleeping on the floor wasn't that comfortable, so they put away Mao's little red book and became lawyers.
Rich lawyers defending the "rights" of certifiably insane people, but hey, you go where the money is.
We need those kinds of people (not the lawyers, but I like them, too) for several reasons:
1. To remind the Government that free speech covers every fruitcake American with a conspiracy theory (it keeps them on their toes).
2. The sudden lack of weird stories would put my highly treasured "Weekly World News" out of business.
3. It stops them from becoming wacked-out fundamentalist Christians (except for the ones that already are).
4. They're fun to watch on TV.
Never underestimate the power of entertainment value. And most cable companies have more discretionary funds than the Federal Government, so maybe when the black helicopters come, they'll have CNN's logo on them. That would be cool.
Text and images copyright L. Mellin, 2000-2008, except where noted. All rights reserved.