Apocalypse Now: America with a gun to her head


God gave Noah the rainbow sign.

No more water,

The fire Next time.

—from an old spiritual

From just about every political perspective, here's a quick fix for all the ills of society:

1. Decriminalize drugs to remove the profit therefrom. This will cut into the drug gang action which spawns crime in cities large and small.

2. Make guns very hard to come by and intensify buyback programs to get more of them off the street.

3. Institute prayer in school. Students can pray while going through metal detectors.

4. Stop pouring money into a loser of a school system and let the free market take over.

5. Build more prisons to be run by private companies. Eliminate parole. Cut out the rest of the frills in these country clubs, like teaching the incarcerated how to read.

6. Fold all government save national defense and let the counties run things.

7. Have all government decisions made by popular vote via phone or Internet.

I could add more, but that's enough. Even if everybody's right and all could be implemented, none of the above will work.

The missing ingredient is the heart which has been cut from the American Dream: equal opportunity, a shot at a better life.

The shot is increasingly more likely, especially from an automatic weapon. Your children and their children will likely not enjoy that better life. They will have an increasingly good shot at less and less.

Without economic opportunity, all the tired liberal, hackneyed conservative, wacko left and nutso right remedies have no chance to work.

When people have no hope, they start shooting. As I have written before, if Timothy McVeigh could have looked forward every day to a decent job paying good wages, he very likely would not have gone into freelance bombmaking.

The required reading on this subject need go no further than this newspaper. United Auto Workers members are now on strike because the hyper-profitable General Motors is moving their jobs to the third world.

The shutdown came the same week that Forbes Magazine published its list of the top 200 billionaires, whose average net worth went from $3.9 billion to $4.7 billion.

To put this mind-boggling amount of money into perspective, it takes 1,000 millionaires to make just one billionaire. If you hit Megabucks or the lottery tomorrow, you couldn't come close to joining the club.

The rich are indeed waxing richer while the great unwashed work more and more hours for less and less.

As I've written so often, the destruction of the American Dream has been done with the bought-and-paid-for cooperation of federal, state and local governments. The best handbook on the process is Donald Barlett and James Steele's "America:" trilogy ("What Went Wrong?", "Who Really Pays the Taxes?" and "Who Stole the Dream?"). All are available in paperback, cheap. I also recommend maverick Republican Kevin Phillips' "The Politics of Rich and Poor" and Michael Moore's "Downsize This!", recently re-issued in paperback.

Every just society stands on a tripod balancing the interests of business, labor and government. Worker rights are an endangered species in this country. The labor leg has termites and your paycheck shows it. The corporate assault on government has been very effective at weakening the second leg. Pretty soon, only corporate power will remain.

Further pushing us down the path toward national self-destruction have been corporate-funded think tanks which put out information designed to trash unions and government, increase bitterness and cynicism and turn off political participation. They've done one helluva job.

Last week, the Washington Post's David Broder printed the latest scorecard.

A report entitled "A Nation of Spectators" supposedly "traces a quarter-century's decline in organizational memberships, political participation, trust in government and in one another, along with worrisome statistics on crime, divorce and extramarital births," Broder wrote.

The remedy advanced by hypocritical luminaries Sam Nunn and Bill Bennett: less TV, more touchy-feely.

Bullshit. Pure scapegoating.

How about better paychecks?

People have less and less time for voting or community work if they are working more hours for eroding wages. It's hard to compete with a nine year-old slave laborer in Bangladesh or Guadalajara.

Only government is strong enough to spread the wealth. When the rich and powerful are left to their own devices, they will do what comes naturally — increase their wealth and power. The Forbes billionaire list will grow.

The erosions of civil rights, worker rights and human rights are all related: the less they are respected, the less demand for taxation of the corporately wealthy to pay their fair share.

The old-fashioned remedy for unfairness has always been the gun. When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.

And that's where I end up in agreement with the likes of my Tribune colleagues in columny Ed Bruce, Ira Hansen and another corporate manufacturing front called the Nutso Rifle Association. Be prepared to defend yourself at all times.

Without economic opportunity, the guerrilla armies being raised by the nation's drug gangs will increase, as will the militias of the outback and random Klansmen and Skinheads.

Forewarned is forearmed.

We must either spread the wealth like good liberals or face the fire next time.

Keep your powder dry and say a prayer.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Be well. Raise hell.


© Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a member of CWA Local 9413. He is a Reno-based syndicated columnist, a 29-year Nevadan, editor of U-News and campaign manager for Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Joe Neal.
Barbwire by Barbano has appeared in the Sparks Tribune since 1988 and parts of this column were originally published 6/28/98.

The Ed Bruce referred to above is a former National Rifle Association board member. He now lives in Sparks, Nev., and chairs the Airport Authority of Washoe County. Ira Hansen is a member of the longtime Sparks family which, for more than two decades, has kept the right-wing Independent American Party alive in the Silver State. His columns are often posted on the Electric Nevada website. His latest, which the Tribune published on the same page as the above, was largely in agreement with the above.

Isn't there something in the Apocalypse about such aberrations?