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12 February, 2011

Die, Dynasty, Die

Mubarak finally gave up. The sheer weight of mass protest tipped the scales, the military recognized it, and although the people in the street seemed to have no definite plan, no weapon greater than their voices, a dictator had to give in. Like the time about 20 years ago when, also on February 11, the Afrikaaners gave up and released Mandela.

I'd like to see 2/11 replace 9/11 in our own consciousness. Instead of a day of impotent anger and fear, wielded by cynical sons of diseased dynasties to start war after war, a day of hope, of despots retired and heroes unleashed.

The Mubarak regime was part of a military dynasty (there may be kin connections I don't know about that make it more of the traditional type) that held on for over 50 years, that took power with the aid of more American fear, worries of a commie canal, of oil fields run by reds. Egypt ought to show, with millenia of history to punch the lesson home, that dynasties always fail. Devolved into inbred idiocy, strangled by the banyony roots of corruption, kicked aside naked by newcomers who see exactly what the emporer is wearing.

No modern dynasty can hope to last as long as some ancient Egyptians managed to, but that doesn't stop them from trying. Sadly, America is subject to this. Obama and Clinton, it is true, came from humble beginnings, but neither has proved adept at pruning the power of wealthy familiy trees that run the country. Reagan, the hagiographers argue, followed the rags to riches American Dream, but this ignored the fact that he was a puppet, that his Cheney was a blue-blood of fine pedigree, who in his noblesse oblige was happy to play second banana while arranging to sell arms to our enemies in Iran to raise funds for central American death squads.

Then later we got Bush Jr. He ran against Gore, then  Kerry, both sons of politicians. Of our representation in congress, how many are sons of political and financial leaders? Too many for a healthy democracy. It has gotten so ridiculous that we now play host to the Pauls, embodiment of the oxymoron "libertarian dynasty." 

I grew up in Virginia, where dynasties are revered. FFV, First Families of Virginia, instilled awe among the red boiled wool blazer women, the seersucker men. Most Americans have heard of and may have some similar feeling about the Mayflower people, but the FFV knew the Plymouth crowd were later, and common, not part of the Cavalier tradition and the upper crust that had ruled Britain since the Roman days (yeah, partly a guess, but one look at the patrician noses of Virginia bears me out). Now slaveless and too numerous to all be wealthy, there nonetheless exist in the Old Dominion many scions of the old grandeur. Sadly, no matter how degenerate or lazy, no matter how far they may have drifted from the days of royal governorship or founding fatherhood, many of these people still feel entitled. I knew this kid who, like his dad and grandad and several generations before was nicknamed "Speaker," because some ancestor had been speaker of the house of burgesses.

When I said "So what," it was dismissed as the benighted anger of a lowly grandson of middling farmers. Gouche sour grapes. Preppies rightly sneered, knowing that by being born, some of them would inherit wealth and power, while I would not. These people grew increasingly alarmed as new people came in. They's not been happy with Celts coming in a century before (and had successfully shunted most of them to the hills and frontiers), but by the 1990s they were faced with an influx of Asians (South and East), Latinos (or, in Virginian, "Mexicans" regardless of origin), and a hosts of New Jerseyites who could give half a shit about FFV. The luster of those dynasties shines on only at certain country clubs and cotillions, but they live on behind the scenes. They still own enough of the corn and coal to run a lot of things, pull many strings.

The Virginian dynasties tend to be pretty conservative, but the nation suffers from allegedly liberal dynasties as well. Chelsea will build on what Hillary hath wrought, Kennedys will continue to run for an win office. Often, the voter won't even realize that the person on the ballot is part of a dynasty, the veil of a married name or just plain popular ignorance of history obscuring that status.

Continuing to elect the sons and daughters of leaders of yore will not give us perpetual power, no clan of Bushes will keep Americo at the top of the New World Order. Things move too fast now. Twenty years ago the dependable enemies of the Eastern Bloc fell, and now in the Arab world we may be losing our despotic enforcers. Without steadfast enemies, without solid partners in crime, our nation lacks both the stable and predictable threat and the worldwide web of cronies that it takes to support constant ascendancy. The kind of people who think that they deserve to rule, and that their kids should too are holding us back, have mired us in one war whose enemy is too amorphous to obliterate and another based on a dynastic vendetta. The Bushes are particularly good at that kind, Iraq and Panama are both cases where strongmen set up to achieve Bush I's desire for a brutal puppet grew into problems, started resenting having George's hand up their ass.

The dynasty, the system of handing wealth and privilege down through kin, fundamentally opposes freedom, reflexively resists progress. We cannot afford to keep electing leaders from the noble families, acting like half-wit wards and powerless serfs looking to the exalted chiefs to deliver. Democracy won't be served by inviting a few more families with more melanin to join the dynasty. Americans need to recognize that we cannot reclaim our freedom by imagining that we can return to the whitebread 1950s or the even more burnished days of founding fathers who owned slaves and wouldn't even deign to let most white people vote. Americans need to realize what the Egyptians just demonstrated, that just because a dynasty has held power for decades does not mean it is impervious, that the weight of the people can tip the balance of power if we simply focus on freedom.

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