Us, or U.S.?

Column by Paul Hein.

Exclusive to STR

I was watching a television program recently dealing with the events leading up to World War II, but primarily concerned with the attacks by Japan upon China, and the presidential order establishing the American Volunteer Force to provide American pilots and aircraft to fight for the Chinese. The commentator remarked, “The U.S. realized that it could not maintain its neutrality indefinitely.” No emphasis was put upon this comment, and it almost slipped by--almost, but not quite.

In the first place, what is neutral about providing weapons and soldiers to kill the Japanese for the benefit of the Chinese? (Today we would assist the Japanese in killing Chinese!) At the same time, our rulers were sending military supplies to the English, to help them kill Germans. A strange sort of neutrality! But more remarkable was the bland assertion that the “U.S.” was doing this. Was Wisconsin doing it? Nebraska? Louisiana? Oregon? Indeed, were the residents of the various states even consulted about it? The program made it obvious that the “U.S.” fully intended to enter the war, provided a suitable justification could be provided. Such a decision immediately put the lives of many Americans at risk, and subjected the others to the rigors of wartime life, including the deaths of loved ones. Again, who was the “U.S.” that was making this decision? Missouri? Nevada? Idaho? Vermont? Was it the people of the various states? Was it even the rulers of those artificially circumscribed areas? Of course not.

The decision to plunge Americans into war was taken by a relative handful of people, whose motives may, or may not, have coincided with those of the people they “represented.” But they never referred to themselves as individuals, but rather, as the “United States.” How grandiose!

It’s no different today. How often have you heard TV anchors refer to a certain action of the U.S., or a certain policy of the U.S., or even opinion that the U.S. has about this or that? It happens so often that we have become accustomed to it, and fail to realize what we’ve heard. One simple example: you might very well hear something like this in the near future: “The United States today has begun its invasion of Iran.” What’s remarkable about that statement is its grammar, totally aside from its meaning, which should make anyone cringe. For if the invasion was really begun by the United States, the statement would be: “The United States today have begun their invasion of Iran.” Now THAT would get your attention, wouldn’t it? If the United States is a single entity, why is the map of American riddled with boundary lines? Can anyone still take seriously the idea of “sovereign” states, when a coterie of individuals in Washington D.C. can make those states responsible for federal debts, or place their residents in harm’s way?

If you’re filling out the paperwork required of an American traveling abroad, you will be asked for your citizenship, and you will indicate that you are a citizen of the United States. All of them? That’s nearly as specific as saying you are a citizen of the Northern Hemisphere.

In general, people have a warm and affectionate regard for the place of their birth. Rulers are aware of this, and have succeeded in capitalizing upon it. So they do not refer to themselves as rulers of Washington D.C., for example, but as leaders of the United States, or even—gosh—the free world! A compliant press will, without any sign of embarrassment, even refer to them that way. But they don’t lead, which means they don’t point the way and suggest we follow it, but they rule, which means they tell us where to go and what they will inflict upon us if we don’t. Very few of them were elected by a majority of the people in their particular district or state, and thus the claim that they represent the people is absurd. And even if they did, when was the last time the people were asked for their advice regarding the matters upon which they vote? Yet they refer to themselves as the “United States,” or a state, or even a town; never as a group of individuals expressing their wishes as “law,” and demanding our respect.

The tragedy is not that a small group of men have given themselves an authority which does not exist, and based upon this self-bestowed power, make decisions which affect our lives in countless ways, for their own benefit, or that or their cronies. The tragedy is that we allow them to do it. Shame on US!

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Paul Hein's picture
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Samarami's picture

Paul Hein:

    The tragedy is that we allow them to do it. Shame on US!

I "voted" you a 9 on this essay, Paul. I would have "voted" 10 -- a perfect score -- were it not for these last two sentences. I have not allowed "them" to do it. So I herewith absolve myself of "shame".

Nah, I can't be totally absolved of shame. There are times I just let 'er slip due to such complete saturation and lack of interest in changing -- often among my dear libertarian writer/friends. There are friends on this very page who, I suspect, rue the day I stumbled upon the late Delmar England's "Insanity As the Social Norm".

For years -- even prior to my official enrollment into the confederation of anarchy -- I had come to recognize the fallacy of "we", and also of "reification":

    "Missouri casts 15 votes for the next grand wizard of the klan!..."

Neither you nor I cast any votes. I suppose as in the case of a political "convention" one individual can be delegated to speak for and represent a delegation of individuals who have met, voted and agreed upon a specific candidate for grand wizard. But it would be beyond the capacity of political reason to ask them to say something like, "...the Missouri delegation casts..." That would border on ending obfuscation, upon which all political "planks" reside.

But "Missouri" did not support Barack Obama or John McCain or Ron Paul. A certain number of people in a place they're calling "Missouri" may have, but neither you nor I supported anybody. Well, I can't speak for you.

Reification has drawn more professing libertarian writers into the snares of collectivist mentality than we can shake fingers at -- not that it does any good to go shaking fingers at anybody.

    "Japan attacked the US at Perle Harbor."

Wrong. "Japan" doesn't exist. Nor does "the US". People exist. We need to stop engaging in collectivist thought hawsers if we're going to be effective in proselytizing our "ism" of libertarian thinking. You've provided a good start with this essay.

Here's a good documentary outlining the phenomenon (1 hr 22 min). It was posted and promoted on Dollar Vigilante just today.

I do greatly appreciate this article, Paul. It is well-written and clear.

I no longer feel like the lone voice in the wilderness. Sam