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This could be your next flag soon unless you act. Seriously.
Historian Bruce Bartlett wrote an interesting post in The New York Times' Economix column, underscoring how the far right's apparent desire to force an actual default has deep historical roots - roots that seem to trace back to the same origins of the know-nothingism that is at the source of Tea Party nuttiness - the U.S. Civil War. Bartlett, a key supply-side economics advisor in both Reagan and G.H.W. Bush administrations, is hardly a left-wing firebrand, so you have to take his assessment very seriously.

What Bartlett's post underscores for me is that we are in the middle of what Tea Party advocates seem hope is nothing less than the destruction of The United States of America itself- a goal that has been fomenting since the formation of our nation.

More after the break.

Bartlett points out that the southern states were very angry about the U.S. requirement not to honor the debt of the Confederate States of America after the war, which triggered concerns that the south would try to get the U.S. to do likewise with its debt as southern representative re-entered Congress after the war. The result was the 14th amendment, which, in addition to codifying the abolition of slavery, included in its Section 4 the guarantee to honor all U.S. debts.

The fact that the debt issue was stuck in the face of the southern states in the same constitutional amendment as slavery abolition civil rights guarantees should not go unnoticed for either its symbolic value or for its roots as a point of contention with the Tea Party, which draws upon white resentments in the south and elsewhere fueled by the rise of civil rights laws in the 1960s. The Tea Party draws on white supremacist sentiment that has been a part of U.S. history since its beginnings, augmenting it with pro-Nazi sentiments fueled by the so-called Fellowship Foundation of "key men" (and, sometimes, women) starting in the mid-20th century. Their purpose is completely clear; split the U.S. so that it can be destroyed, and replaced with a far right police state benefiting a few elites.

As with the rise of Hitler during Germany's Weimar Republic, the Tea Party uses economic and social chaos to fuel its rise. It undermines faith in democratic processes at every turn, so that people will favor "strong man" governments - governments that will benefit the "key men" first and foremost and further the redistribution of wealth from average people to the elites. The Nazis of Weimar Germany also used resentment against Europe and moderate Germans for the perceived unfairness of war reparation payments after World War I to fuel nationalism, much in the same way that the Tea Party fuels resentment against the fall of the "Southern Cause" with its encouragement of Confederate flag-waving and the use of the proxy Gadsden Flag from South Carolina's troops in the War of Independence.

What we are engaged in is not an economic fight, or even a political fight. What we're engaged in is in fact a fight for the last chance for a democracy in the United States for the foreseeable future. The billionaire lords of the Tea Party. like the industrialists backing Hitler, want to wage economic and military war on anyone who might interfere with their accretion of wealth, both in this nation and beyond. Their "values" issues, while certainly a part of their outlook, are largely tools for a much more agnostic and pagan goal: power and wealth for its own sake, with the state as the crowning mechanism for their goals.

Sadly, I don't think that the U.S. public really gets this - or really gets that they are in a battle where they are still the majority against this hardened and fantasy-based group of extremists. Hitler rose to power in part because everyday people became exhausted, beaten down by harsh economic realities, a beating aided and abetted by a flaccid and complacent media. So it is again today. Little has been learned in a century, unfortunately, it would seem.

We do have hope and we do have options, but people are tired, and they need to feel that they have hope. This is what's lacking in the political dialogue right now. Obama is doing his best to fuel that courage and that hope, but it will take a lot more grass roots activism to overcome the Tea Party. They can command endless hours of news coverage simply by having a few of their relatives and friends wave Confederate flags in front of the White House. They call for massive rallies that never materialize - except in the news media's perception that declaring these things to be so makes them so.

We have to create our own reality for the sake of U.S. democracy, and soon, otherwise there will be no union left to save. If that seems to be an exaggeration, look at how the German people allowed democracy to slip away from their own nation. The fact of the matter is that, one way or another, we are still engaged in a great Civil War for American democracy, testing whether this nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure, as Abraham Lincoln put it. The enemies of democracy laid down their arms only in part more than 150 years ago. The final battle of that war is upon us. It is up to us as a people to decide how to fight it, but the fight has been brought to us regardless. We have only to choose how to respond.

Let's hope for the best - and fight for it.

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