Back when I was at Rice, 40 years ago, oil was a fairly benign political force. Or so it seemed to me, lost in my studies, surrounded by oil money, which was rapidly building the huge Texas Medical Center before my very eyes.
We know different now. We know how power corrupts every industry, and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. We saw that with George W. Bush, the spoiled son of an oilman, installed in power by a Supreme Court created through political action, unelected by the people. Since then we’ve seen Iraq, we’ve seen Katrina, we’ve seen the Great Recession. We’re seeing climate change, threatening the whole human race.
Worse, we’ve seen D.C. vs. Heller, idiots thinking Thomas Jefferson wants them to own AR-15s as some natural right. We’ve seen Citizens United, billionaires who think they have an absolute right to control us with their dollars, simply because they have them. These last injuries will abide. They are examples of how the oil industry, which took political power only to be left alone in the 1960s, eventually abused it to the detriment of the whole world.
Just as railroads pushed farmers and working people too far in the 19th century, and utilities collapsed the economy in the 1920s, just as manufacturers used political power to go to Vietnam in the 1960s, so oil eventually became a noisome element in the national political equation, and was overthrown by technology in 2008.
I have learned that in my own studies here over the last decade. It’s our ability to learn from history, and so step back from the brink, that is the secret of America’s success.
The present political conflict has elements of the Civil War and World War II in it. Like the Civil War it’s primarily a sectional struggle, this time between cities and suburbs, and also (so far) primarily a political struggle. At the same time it’s also a global struggle over values, with people around the world wanting to tear apart the post-war order and so make war upon one another. It will be America’s job, over the next four years, to offer a credible alternative.
Also, as with previous crises, this one has roots going back a generation. The Civil War followed a generation of compromises between North and South, brokered by the West. World War II followed the harsh peace of World War I, and the rise of Empires (including, thanks to Teddy Roosevelt, our own).
History will record that the United States has been in a state of civil war for eight years now.
It was announced through Sarah Palin, grew during the Tea Party days, and has only gotten worse since.
The fuel for the war is Antonin Scalia’s decision in D. C. vs. Heller, announced 8 years ago this week, which overturned 220 years of jurisprudence and held, for the very first time, that the Second Amendment gives Americans a legal right to own a gun.
The decision applied only to handguns. It was limited in scope. But it was seized on by modern day secessionists to mean they could all arm themselves to the teeth, and that they had a natural right to revolt against the government.