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Whatever happened to Uncle Sam?

Uncle Sam image

Demonstrating why Uncle Sam isn't an uncle anymore

(2nd edition [revised] - Apr 2013) by A.O. Kime
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As to the label ‘Uncle Sam’ - which was prompted by the initials “U.S.“ (United States) during the War of 1812 - and while subjected to a variety of silly applications it was ultimately suggested it should mean “the government and its power” in 1835. It stuck. Of course, images of what Uncle Sam should look like were destined to happen and began to appear during the Civil War. A rendition appeared once again just prior to America‘s involvement in World War I in those famous “I Want You” recruitment posters. By then everybody knew it was Uncle Sam... the front guy for the United States.

Although by happenstance that ‘uncle’ was derived from the initial ‘U’, or even could be, it seemed fated it could be so absolutely fitting.

From farmer to bellboy the consensus was that ’uncle’ was the type of relationship the government should have with its citizens. From all indications it was unanimous. It was an opinion passed on from one generation to the next. Unheard was it should be a close relation like a brother, father or mother… usually intrusive and meddlesome. Generally, an uncle is only loosely connected to the immediate family… someone a family member might only hear from occasionally and has little day-to-day influence.

The government of today, of course, isn’t like an uncle. It is both intrusive and meddlesome… often to the point of being smothering. It is reminiscent of the days of the Spanish Inquisition.

It should be noted that it doesn’t matter whether governmental agencies are necessary, well-intentioned or conduct themselves shamelessly, if they are constantly ’in-your-face’ then it isn’t being uncle-like. Of course, the founding fathers didn’t state explicitly that our government should act like an uncle - not in so many words - but their wording clearly suggests it was the general idea.

It should also be noted the opinions expressed herein come from the perspective of having been born in 1941 and why the 1950s-60s are used as a ‘baseline’ instead of earlier times. It was both a time experienced and more apropos for these purposes than the rest of the 20th century. It is believed the 50s-60s were the ’best of times’… civilization‘s finest hour. Yet, others might say that earlier times such as the Roaring 20s or the 1890s were more ideal. Who knows… such opinions would be based largely on one's degree of naiveté and lot in life. Whatever, comparing the atmosphere of today to the 1950s-60s can still get some points across.

The stifling of the air by religions and computers

Long ago - before the advent of institutions - there wasn’t any ‘stifling influence’ one had to contend with but that all changed with the introduction of organized religions. No longer could one feel free… sense that ever-present and wonderful ‘air of freedom’. The intrusiveness of religions made it impossible.

Although repressive governments also stifled the air, referencing religious intrusiveness will best make some points.

While the stifling of the air by Catholicism has greatly subsided the past 300 years - although it never was a problem in America save the blue laws - in Europe it lasted for roughly a millennium. However, that same circumstance began to occur once again with the advent of computers. Computers gave governments the omnipotence they so interminably craved … one could even say computers gave them the powers of a god. Wizardry-like and ostentatiously they could now create or destroy faster and more efficiently, track every dollar, know and oversee every habit, accurately forecast election results and can even maintain a constant presence over every town including their inhabitants. And that’s not even the half of it.

Of course, this ‘constant presence’ is what is felt in the air. Being in the face of those persons existing in one of their databases is especially true (on welfare, on parole, etc.). However, except for the IRS, it isn't so bad for those who wisely avoid government help and otherwise stay out of their systems. But still 'in-your-face' for everyone are mandatory evacuations, DUI roadblocks, sting operations and soon the health care mandates.

It was a different atmosphere before computers… a time when one could really sense this wonderful and exhilarating ’air of freedom’. It was because there was no 'constant presence' being felt. While changes in this atmosphere began to occur in the mid 1970s, by the 80s one began to realize it wasn’t just their imagination.

For controlling lives there came no apologies either.

Shotgun rule

The most stifling aspect which arose was shotgun rule… meaning criminal laws designed to hit you with anything. And, being practically unlimited in scope the ‘rule of law’ evaporates. It sets the stage for arbitrary justice. Practically everything has been made into a crime as well… or, perhaps one should say, “a crime or a potential crime“. Whether or not one is charged depends on the mood of the officer. Arbitrary, no?

But these type laws are largely for the benefit of the law enforcement agencies, not society. Clearly they are designed to help the prosecutor’s batting average. At their disposal now is a boxful of 'crimes'. And, hardly anything is deemed a misdemeanor anymore, most misdeeds are now deemed ‘felonies‘.

While this shotgun approach is more effective for nabbing the bad guys, the tendency has been to apply the same provisions to all citizens - making everybody a ‘bad guy’ (potentially).

Likewise lobbying (instigating) for their own benefit are the insurance companies (i.e., mandatory auto insurance, drunk driving laws, seatbelt requirements, smoking regulations). It is outrageous. Then, of course, still underwritten are the restrictive blue laws… a carryover from the Middle Ages. It is morality institutionally defined and enforced.

Everything from the arbitrariness of ‘legally drunk’ to ‘custodial interference‘, it’s just as stifling to the air as religion’s idea of ‘heresy’ once was.

There’s certainly no ’uncle’ here… not the Uncle Sam that existed before computers. That's not to say Uncle Sam didn't always have his faults, it's just that he wasn't constantly 'in-your-face' back then. He didn't get so personal.

Political correctness, heresy, crimes and prisons

However, nowadays to stray from political correctness is the equivalent of heresy.

While it‘s not yet a crime to be blunt the enforcement of political correctness nonetheless occurs. As enforcers, the major media outlets became like the Whipping Station boys of the old South. Nor will they stop whipping until one has publically apologized. Most profusely of course... to closely resemble being on one's knees begging for forgiveness.

Today, one can only go places and do things at their own risk. If they stray from ’accepted behavior’ in the slightest they’ll likely be arrested. Arrests justify the existence of police plus the existence of prosecutors, jail-keepers and parole officers. Crime is also great for lawyers and bail bondsmen. It is an industry. And, with the dramatic increase in the prison population since the 1970s (from 200,000 to 2,000,000), the construction of prisons became a notable growth industry.

Contrarily, during the 1950s-60s most police didn’t see any ’crime’ in misdemeanors. They saw them more as ‘indiscretions’ easily offset by a tongue-lashing. Warnings, not arrests, dominated the scene. Of course, that was when a misdemeanor was still a misdemeanor.

One can only pity the kids of today. If they don’t walk the straight and narrow they’ve ‘had it’ (aka: the disastrous and ever-lasting ‘green weenie‘). It’s having an arrest record. As for adults, they dare not even give someone a dirty look anymore… it can be construed as ’threatening and intimidating’ (a felony). So too in saying “we’ll see about that” or something similar. An accompanying serious facial expression is usually the ‘trigger’. Or a loud voice.

It isn’t anything old Uncle Sam would endorse either.

Of course, the ‘can be’ means ‘discretionary’ and thus the arbitrary aspect of criminal law. While discretion has always existed (as the variable) but in broadening the scope there’s no recognizing the rule of law anymore. To whatever degree it once existed was blown to smithereens.

Even being completely innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, one simply cannot feel absolutely confident they can’t be arrested anymore. The police could find a reason meaning there's no such thing as being 'innocent'. With so much being potentially illegal it is like running a gauntlet of raining rocks.

Sanity and drugs

Today, although the authorities and the media won‘t admit it, the tightening of the ropes has the effect of creating more drug use… it’s the ‘means of escape’ for many. Same goes for alcohol. And, the desire to escape the intolerable seems only natural. One’s sanity would seem to demand it. Of course, the alternative is to get in sync with the dysfunctional aspects.

Stemming from the apathy generated drug use is just one of many consequences however. Apathy generates an endless array which affects every aspect of society. Only politicians seem immune.

Also reminiscent of the old atmosphere created by religions is the way funerals are conducted for high ranking officials and law enforcement officers. Singling out the ruling class for special treatment smacks of Medievalism. Only public service volunteers are deserving of such ostentatious ceremonies at taxpayer expense. They weren’t paid to take the risks… it is where ‘honorable’ lies. On the other hand, if fallen officers are truly deserving of a 21 gun salute then so too a murdered clerk of a convenience store. They too put themselves in harms way... likewise security guards.

Marvelous, imaginations and freedom

However, the marvelous atmosphere of freedom during the 1950s-60s may be hard to imagine unless experienced. While nobody is old enough to remember the Spanish Inquisition, oddly living under a cloud can be more easily imagined. It’s as if a bad situation can be pictured more-so than a good situation.

That’s not to say everyone thought the 1950s-60s were marvelous - and perhaps some may believe only the 60s were marvelous (blacks). Whatever the case, computing power enabled the government to began taking marvelous away from everyone in the mid 70s. Bureaucrats took it so running a government would be marvelous. It's like grease for their machinery.

It’s enough to hate everything modern… it either has ‘socialist’ or ‘police state’ stamped all over it (it's often hard to tell the difference). Or else “Made in China”. In addition, life was much simpler when Uncle Sam was running things. The peace one experiences from freedoms is also found in simplicity. So apt is “leave me alone and let me live in peace”.

In summary… if you don’t like today’s situation don’t blame it on old Uncle Sam. If you do, please don’t impose on the term and call it freedom. Freedom isn’t something governments can keep redefining. Freedom is freedom. That‘s nothing new however, to fit the circumstances it’s been continually diluted since ancient times. Compared to absolute freedom our portion likely only contains about 2% of that ingredient. That's a worldwide circumstance however. Surely the engineers of civilization must have promised at least 50%… nobody would have gone along with the idea otherwise.

Note: As for being a 'free country'', according to the Heritage Foundation the U.S. is ranked 10th (and slipping).

Summary

(Note: substantially different from the original article)

In order to unshackle Uncle Sam the obvious solution is for government to ‘back-off’ substantially especially in law enforcement. However, since police discretion is a fact of life - it comes with the territory - it should be made into an art form just like diplomats turned ‘diplomatic’ into an art form. And, the propensity for it should be there in order to become an officer.

Pertaining mostly to 'victimless crimes' - where laws shouldn't exist in the first place being another instance of Medievalism - two ingredients largely missing in the acts of policing are compassion and sympathy. A badge, a gun and arrest quotas shouldn’t be all there is.

Of course, topping the list of ingredients would be 'fairness' which effectively means enforcing only those laws a police officer believes represent justice. Or doesn't dispensing justice have a place anymore? After all, the blind enforcement of laws is terribly lacking. In light of the blue laws and those overly stringent, idiotic or are designed to serve insurance companies and prosecutors, has not 'enforcement' become a dirty word?

But, in whatever area of criminal law, none of these 'ingredients' would be necessary if any semblance of the 'rule of law' existed... situations whereby the police can't possibly touch you. A smirk or snide remark shouldn't be the sole reason for an arrest either. Or shouldn't even be the trigger. Yet, it's invariably the case. As a consequence of expanding police powers the safe grounds were eliminated. So, if to be at the mercy of the police at least they should be merciful, no? Let's throw in 'reasonable'.

As for safe grounds, at least one should be able to call a policeman a jackass (if warranted) and get away with it. Being 'free speech', retribution for berating a cop should be expressly prohibited. Of course, one shouldn't be overly-abusive. A "pig" is surely out-of-bounds. If citizens expect cops to be reasonable, so should the extent of their berating be reasonable (have limits). Free speech in these situations is like oil for the machinery (of justice). In the interests of justice citizens should have a voice in the matter.

So... should legislators be horrified at the prospect of cops being merciful and reasonable? After all, it would have an effect on law enforcement. There would be less emphasis on 'enforcement'. Well, expanded police powers is the monster they created... destined to evolve into this necessity. To some degree it's already happening... the need for latitude recognized.

The aforementioned is also necessary in order to counterbalance the harsh sentencing guidelines imposed on judges (which turned judges into mere clerks). Altering the role of judges should have been beyond the scope of legislative authority. In light of the tinkering with the wheels of justice grand juries and petit juries must also begin counterbalancing. A broken law, after all, doesn't necessarily mean a 'crime' was committed.

Lest become a police state, undeniably so, the situation calls for all of us to actively promote our Tea Party ideals. Being powerless, our children are depending on us.

A.O. Kime

Last modified: 03/10/16