At the great Washington March of 1963, the chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis, speaking to the same enormous crowd that heard Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream,” was prepared to ask the right question: “Which side is the federal government on?” That sentence was eliminated from his speech by organizers of the March to avoid offending the Kennedy Administration. But Lewis and his fellow SNCC workers had experienced, again and again, the strange passivity of the national government in the face of Southern violence, strange, considering how often this same government had been willing to intervene outside the country, often with overwhelming force.

I get this via Wikiquote. It’s Howard Zinn in You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, Zinn’s autobiography. It’s so close to perfect I want to cry when I read it. It’s so simple and clear. These are the specific questions to ask:

  • What social and economic conditions does the U.S. government intervene to preserve, for whom, and with what force?
  • What social and economic conditions do the U.S. government’s actions impose (intentionally or “as a by-product”), for whom, and with what force?

The complete and correct answers to these questions reveal that the actual pattern of the application of force on the part of the U.S. government is utterly disconnected from one that would preserve life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness for all U.S. citizens, let alone all humans. Instead, the pattern reflects very clearly that it is only about preserving life, liberty, and property for the ruling class (owning), nation (european, and specifically euro-amerikan), and gender (male). In order to preserve those things for those people, the more distant, physically as well as socioeconomically, that a person or group of people is from those protected groups, the more completely the U.S. government is willing to destroy that person’s or that group of people’s life, liberty, and ability to pursue happiness.

Despite all their muddling, concealing, distracting, and deceiving, it is not one bit more complicated than that, and it has not been for centuries.

But one more thing. The ruling circle isn’t just 10,000 super-rich euro-amerikan men ringed by 10 million well-paid and well-armed mercenaries. It is concentric. Those 10,000 don’t need it to be so stark because they have the allegiance of the unrich but well-off and privileged. They have almost the full allegiance of the white nation here in the USA in defending white supremacy at home and imperialism abroad. And they have the allegiance of almost all the males here in defending male supremacy everywhere. In order to protect their life, liberty, and property rights, the vast majority of unrich euro-amerikan people in the USA, especially men (and their property rights include their unofficial but currently well-respected right to act like they own most women along with the rest of the universe), are all about the specific pattern in which the U.S. government uses force. Compared to those whom force is used against (again, in physical as well as socioeconomic distance), they are the ruling circle.