The emblem for this series is the Sword of Damocles piercing a crown, symbolizing the idea that the powerful are not invulnerable. The name of the series derives from Tiberius Gracchus, one of Ancient Rome’s greatest reformers, who was tragically martyred for his efforts.
Two-hundred and forty-four years ago, the members of the Second Continental Congress unanimously declared their intent to secede from Great Britain, and outlined their reasons for doing so. Invoking the equal stature of all mankind as shared recipients of certain inalienable rights endowed by our creator, they asserted that it was not only the prerogative of the people to alter or abolish tyrannical government which subverted those rights, it was their responsibility.
I speak now, both as the honored successor of their struggle, and as the embittered witness of our present day leaders profaning the stature of this great nation founded through their efforts. I submit that the current administration, as well as its forbears from at least the preceding half century, have failed to respect our entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, I accuse them of forgetting their place as servants rather than masters of the people, obfuscating the reality that their power ultimately derives out of an ongoing and revocable consent from the governed. To put it simply, the Federal government of the United States of America, in its current incarnation, has become far more similar to that of the tyrannical despot we addressed the original Declaration to, rather than the idealistic men who signed it. In this document (as well as a more extensive, cited companion piece to follow) I shall provide examples of the injustices against the American citizenry which warrant this rebuke.
I have neither the ability nor the desire to cause injury to the United States government. No one person, nor any minor collective, could withstand the might of the modern American military. Just as no moral descendant of our heritage would ever wish to disrupt the peaceful transition of power from one contingent to another, which is our country’s noblest tradition. These essays merely reflect the sincere desire to call our elected officials to the high standard set by our founders and appeal to fellow dedicated citizens, who are just as outraged as I am, to get involved in the system so we can return our nation to its roots.
I may be one person as opposed to the united representatives of thirteen colonies, but I’m an individual who is not afraid to stand up and articulate as clearly as possible why I feel slighted by my own representatives. I am an individual who cares enough about the ongoing well-being of America to research and compile suggested reforms which I believe very strongly could set us back on the right path. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of a supposedly free nation, and I deserve to be heard rather than silenced. Should any of my fellow citizens choose to favor the tenets of this Sempronian Manifesto, they too would be just one minor faction in the larger, brilliantly diversified patchwork that is the American public discourse.
All the same, I proclaim with certainty that Americans everywhere are outraged at the current state of affairs. Republicans express it by flocking to a political outsider who mercilessly heckled the old standard-bearers of their own party. Democrats express it by rejecting the moderate voices of their organization and embracing bolder, idealistic candidates. Those on the right express it through their fervent distrust of anyone deemed “establishment” or associated too closely with the State. Those on the left express it through their impassioned protests around the country, even in the face of insurmountable danger. Old men declare it with their pessimistic predictions for our future standing. Young men declare it with their increasing attempts to leave the country behind. The privileged announce it by withholding their taxes while the downtrodden announce it by committing the ultimate form of escape.
No one is happy with the United States government, nor the course which its magistrates have chosen to set for us. And why should they be? This is an existential nightmare that has subverted the will and well-being of the people. Let us examine some of the most apparent injustices of our recent past:
[In order to more clearly emphasize the backwards state of affairs in America today, to make it plain the intended role of our government as opposed to the role which they have schemed, manipulated and bullied their way into, I will begin every article by referring to them as “our servants” as opposed to “our leaders” or “our government.”]
Our servants have ruthlessly exploited a common tragedy in order to manipulate its people into supporting an illegal and costly war which has left us hopelessly indebted into the foreseeable future.
Our servants have covertly established an organization with the means to not only spy on all our collective digital communications but store records of them indefinitely in a database so that we may potentially be blackmailed in the future should any of us run for office or attempt to speak out. They are amassing an unprecedented apparatus to track our every movement and thought, and the potential for tyranny with such power is unyielding.
Our servants have ruined millions of lives, wasted billions of dollars and given police agencies carte blanche to infringe upon our privacy and freedom with the disastrous war on drugs. With the recent developments regarding the use of cannabis and psilocybin as medicinal treatments, they have held our scientific and societal development back decades.
Our servants have allowed the police force, well-meaning though many of the individual officers may be, to run amok. With reduced accountability even with regards to the use of deadly force, unnecessarily militarized equipment, no first-aid or deescalation training, asset forfeiture, no-knock raids, ruthless suppression of peaceful protests from Black Lives Matter to Occupy Wall Street, combined with a fundamental lack of civilian oversight, the people are in-effect held at the mercy of an occupying military.
Our servants have sent camouflage-clad, unidentified, militarized Federal agents into a state against the express will of its governor and the mayor of the afflicted city. (Who, it should be noted, was personally attacked by these same officers.) They have been observed to “disappear” political dissenters into unmarked vehicles. This expressly violates the supremacy of the states as well as the people. Both of whom, according to the Constitution, are supposed to enumerate powers to the Federal government rather than the other way around.
Our servants have engaged in cruel and unusual treatment of our own people and those of other communities. By utilizing torture against suspected terrorists, they have permanently tarnished our morals and standing to our neighbors abroad for an interrogation technique which has been proven ineffective anyway. By establishing that accused-terrorists may be tortured they also set a dangerous precedent against US citizens whom they may wish to intimidate or punish. The same applies to NDAA, which among other atrocities, allows the government to detain suspected terrorists indefinitely without trial. Psychologically damaging practices such as solitary confinement are regularly used even against civilian prisoners.
Our servants have conducted foreign affairs recklessly, supplanting the will of sovereign nations to install (often despotic) puppets of American business interests. In the short term this may benefit some American corporations or magistrates, but in the long run we’ve created many future enemies in this manner. In addition, this kind of modus operandi damages our reputation abroad and begs the question: if our federal government will not respect international law, how can we trust them to follow the Constitution, our law between the states? In the present administration, this worry has proven to be well-founded, as the current President has deliberately allowed states which voted against him in the last election to suffer the most in the current pandemic.
Our servants have corrupted our election systems to ensure that they remain in power despite our sincere, peaceful attempts to change the system. This is achieved through gerrymandering, the artificial limit of 435 Representatives (and subsequently 538 electors), strategic attacks on mail-in ballots as well as closing of polling places in minority communities, outrageous obstacles for third party and independent candidates to participate in the presidential debates and finally our continued use of the outdated First Past the Post ballot system when there are far better options available. Recently the current President has openly flaunted the idea of postponing the election entirely, an idea that was previously unheard of–even in the midst of our Civil War.
Our servants have treated our own people like playthings for their own sick amusement and that of our intelligence agencies. Some examples include MK ULTRA, the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, Operation Sea-Spray, Operation Big-Itch, Operation Big Buzz, Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense, the Human Radiation Experiments, Green Run, Cincinnati Radiation Experiments, Operation LAC, Operation Top Hat, Project CHATTER, Project ARTICHOKE, Operation Midnight Climax, the Holmesburg Prison torture experiments, and A Study of the Vulnerability of Subway Passengers in New York City to Covert Attack with Biological Agents.
Our servants, through a consistent misallocation of resources, have created an unjust and fundamentally broken society for its people. For example, the defense contractors building expensive equipment the military itself often doesn’t need (and some of which is given to the police) on our dime. Then there’s the corn subsidies, which have directly led to the overproduction of said crop, which then manifests itself in the overuse of corn syrup in our food products and contributes to the obesity epidemic. Another instance can be found in our healthcare system which, thanks to wage controls during the FDR administration, is now tied to employment. This means those afflicted by unemployment or underemployment are twice-damned. Perhaps most egregiously of all, the government plays favorites in matters of capitalism, forcing the already-struggling taxpayers to bail out large corporations (many of whom were largely responsible for economic collapse) without punishing or removing the executives responsible for the companies’ failures, much less transferring ownership to the public in return for our “investment.”
Contrarily, our servants also cede what should be public utilities over to plutocrats so they can exploit the people for profit. The best examples of this are privatized prisons which create a toxic demand for lawbreakers, the health insurance industry which gouges people who are suffering desperate emergencies, and repeated attacks on the post office. Most recently this trend has led to the repeal of net neutrality, allowing internet service providers to play favorites with what websites are offered at what price, when the internet ought to be a public utility like water, power and telephone lines.
Despite their egregious conduct, their flagrant disregard for the public welfare, our servants see fit to set their own wages and vacation days. The average Congressman sets his own wages at $174,000. As of 2018, the House spent just 174 days working while the Senate spent only 191. Compare this to the average American salary, which is $45,000 and the average American’s vacation days, 15. (It should be noted that America is also the only advanced nation to not guarantee any vacation days for employees.)
In response to these crimes against the American people, we have exercised our constitutional right and duty to redress the government. As the result of our efforts, we have been mocked by so-called public servants and ignored in the best of circumstances. Often the government just continues to push through the same legislation, which we the people have made explicitly clear is unwanted, under a new name until we get worn out from resisting and it slips through. Perhaps the best example of this deliberate abdication of duty can be found in the backlash against the Stop Online Piracy Act, known colloquially as SOPA and the Protect IP Act, known as PIPA. Both of which were vehemently rejected by the American public as well as actual tech companies only for the government to make cosmetic adjustments and push them through under the new names, Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA). Now we have the government clamoring for the removal of Internet encryption altogether, destroying the last barrier against complete invasion of our digital privacy. (Not to mention making our banking and health records infinitely more vulnerable to outside hackers.)
Enough is enough. A representative democracy with neither the rule of law nor the consent of the governed should not be allowed to persist in defaming the great legacy of its founding principles. Though it is my belief that any true American worthy to call themselves the descendants of Jefferson and Madison ought to do the same, if I stand alone in calling my government to its own self-proclaimed values, then so be it. I am just one voice among the leaderless period of social, economic and political upheaval we are witnessing in America today, but I hope the country that emerges on the other side might remember where it came from. May the suggestions offered in this Sempronian Manifesto be of use to my fellow countrymen when that time arrives.