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Robert A. Mills

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THOUGHTS ON STATE OF THE UNION, ETC
1/29/2010 1:29:57 PM
THOUGHTS ON STATE OF THE UNION, D.C., CONGRESS AND OTHER POLITICAL PHENOMENAS STUMBLED UPON WHILE LOOKING UP SOMETHING ELSE

[If the recent State of the Union speech was just thunder and lightning] the lightning there was so convincing that when it strikes a thing it doesn’t leave enough of that thing for you to tell whether—well, you’d think it was something valuable, and a Congressman was there. [Listening to the rebuttals confirmed once again that] fleas can be taught nearly everything that a Congressman can. [The body language of the audience indicated] Congress contains the smallest minds and selfishest souls and meanest hearts God makes. Suppose you were an idiot. Suppose you are a Congressman. . . . But I repeat myself.

Being a Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full-grown man. All Congresses . . . have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal identity and heredity.

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class, except Congress. It is the foreign element that commits our crimes. There is no native criminal class, except Congress. [In Congress] whisky is carried into committee rooms in demijohns and carried out in demagogues. I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind, Judas was nothing but a low, mean, premature Congressman.

The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet. [There is a] new political gospel: public office is public graft. [Honest men] are easy to find; an honest man in politics shines more than he would elsewhere. [I know because] I am a moralist in disguise; it gets me into heaps of trouble when I go thrashing about in political questions.

In religion and politics, people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who themselves have not examined the question at issue but have taken them second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions . . . are not worth a brass farthing. When you are in politics you are in a wasp’s nest. I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics, a man’s reasoning powers are not above a monkey’s.

When politics enter . . . nothing resulting therefrom in the way of crimes and infamies is then incredible. It actually enables one to accept and believe the impossible. I shall not often meddle with politics because [I] have a political [friend or two] who are already excellent and only need to serve a term or two in prison to be perfect.

To lodge all power [in Congress] and keep it there is to insure bad government . . . and gradual deterioration of public morals. Look at the tyranny of Party—at what is called Party Allegiance, Party Loyalty—a snare invented by designing men for selfish purposes—and which turns voters into chattles, slaves, rabbits, and all the while their masters and they themselves are shouting rubbish about Liberty, Independence, Freedom of Opinion, Freedom of Speech—honestly unconscious of the contradiction and forgetting (or ignoring) that their fathers and the churches shouted the same blasphemies a generation earlier when they were closing the doors against the slave, beating his handful of humane defenders with Bible texts and [night-sticks], and pocketing the insults and licking the shoes of [so-called] masters.

All large political doctrines are rich in difficult problems—problems that are quite above the average citizen’s reach. And that is not strange, since they are also above the reach of the ablest minds in the country; after all the fuss and all the talk, not one of those doctrines has been conclusively proven to be the right one and the best.

There are many Congressmen whom I hold in a certain respect and would not think of declining to meet socially, if I believed it was the Will of God. We have lately sent a Congressman to the penitentiary, but I am quite well aware that of those who have escaped this promotion there are several who are in some regards guiltless of crime—not guiltless of all crimes, for that can be said of any Congressman, I think, but guiltless of some kinds of crime. [I speak of people] who make laws in Washington while not doing time.

In the beginning of [political] change the Patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for it costs nothing to be a Patriot. Man is the only Patriot. He sets himself apart in his own country, under his own flag, and sneers at other nations, and keeps multitudinous uninformed assassins on hand at heavy expense to grab slices of other people’s countries, and keep them from grabbing slices of his. And in the intervals between campaigns, he washes the blood off his hands and works for “the universal brotherhood of man”—with his mouth.

We teach [our young people] to take their Patriotism at second-hand; to shout with the largest crowd without examining the right or wrong of the matter—exactly as boys under monarchies are taught and have always been taught. We teach them to regard as traitors, and to hold in aversion and contempt such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place—the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else’s keeping.

The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as Patriotism is moral cowardice—and always has been.

[Patriotism] is a word that always commemorates a robbery. These isn’t a foot of land in the world which doesn’t represent the ousting and re-ousting of a long line of successive “owners” who each in turn, as Patriots with proud swelling hearts, defended it against the next gang of “robbers” who came to steal it and did—and became swelling-hearted Patriots in their turn.

I wish I were exceedingly talented and smart and mature enough to have penned these words, but alas, I am not, nor will ever be. These thoughts were jotted in books, stories, speeches and margins by some rabble-rouser named Clemens—or Twain, many decades ago (the brackets are mine.) Twain was arguably one of our last Great Americans, and he used to work on a boat on the Mississippi, near my youngest daughter’s old apartment. I often sat on the roadside on Mud Island, staring at the water, conversing with him.

Copyright©2010 by Robert A. Mills

AURA LEE continues this weekend


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