By Robert A. Vella

In the classic 1939 Frank Capra film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, naive altruistic everyday-man Jefferson Smith (actor James Stewart) is unexpectedly appointed to the U.S. Senate and creates a political firestorm by bravely challenging and upending the pervasive corruption afflicting that institution.  Retired U.S. Army Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell in the Bush Administration, is neither naive nor an everyday-man;  but, his principled altruism and willingness to confront institutional misbehavior isn’t all that different from the fictional character of Mr. Smith.

Wilkerson spoke recently at the staunchly conservative Lone Star College campus in Kingwood, Texas – a master-planned community in northeast Houston which is predominantly white.  Even for Wilkerson, who has been publicly critical of the Republican Party since the Iraq War, his speech was especially condemning of the radicalization which has seized his party in recent years.  He most definitely did not mince any words, referring to the current GOP as a “freak show” and asserting that Republican governors’ calls for secession would transform the South into an impoverished “Bangladesh.”  But, his most prescient remarks focused on the failing American system due in large part to an intransigent conservative ideology (from:  Lawrence Wilkerson: The Demise Of The American Empire (Video)):

Wilkerson spoke of previous empires, their longevity or lack of it, and addressed the decline of the American Empire and talked about how current events have accelerated the inevitable.

During his talk, which lasted approximately 45 minutes, with another 40 minutes devoted t0 Q&A, Wilkerson talked about the signs signaling our demise and how we must make the transition from superpower to a power. There’s a distinction, but it’s a big one, and he cites the demise of the British Empire and how that nation coped at the time and in the ensuing decades. He noted that since its demise as a superpower to being merely a power, Great Britain has done pretty well for itself.

His listed specific signs of demise, which are recognizable if anyone pays the slightest attention to what has been going on:

  • Empires want to keep the status quo and will use any means necessary to retain it, relying almost completely on the use of the military.

  • Bankers and financiers running the empire. In other words, the oligarchy.

  • He spoke of the use of torture and how only low ranking people were prosecuted, while those who gave the orders have escaped any accountability.

  • The high cost of maintaining the military empire we’ve created, citing $1.3 trillion spent in fiscal 2013 alone.

  • How Empire is afraid of the draft because it might be an impediment to war (think Vietnam and the number of people who refused to go and demonstrated against that war) and the use of mercenaries.

  • Wilkerson also spoke of income inequality and made the startling statement that .001 percent of the people in this country own the equivalent of the GDP of Brazil.

  • He talked about climate change and the incredible costs that have only begun and noted that the lone government agency paying real attention to planetary climate change is the Department of Defense.

Wilkerson’s suggestion of the inevitable consequences for America did not go unnoticed by the audience (from:  Lawrence Wilkerson discussed the possibility of the breakup of the U.S.):

He left many in the decidedly conservative audience shocked and with much to think about. Lawrence Wilkerson pointed out that a United States break-up is a possibility as we have historically been very stable. It is not necessarily a natural state of being. If one looks at what seems like insurmountable deadlocks in Congress, one must ask if that may be the path we are on.

And, just last week, Wilkerson sharply rebuked the intensifying xenophobic tribalism which has gripped his party (from:  What on Earth Is Wrong With the Republican Leadership?):

That there is a well-financed campaign in America to discredit Muslims in general is shocking, to be sure, but at least historically understandable: America has always had such racial hatred, religious bigots, and otherwise mentally-impaired people. But for the highest ranks of one of the nation’s principle political parties to appear publicly to condone such tactics is something quite new. Senator Joseph McCarthy might have gotten Eisenhower’s attention sufficiently to shake his hand in Milwaukee when Ike was campaigning there in 1952, but that was as far as it went. Ike reviled McCarthy and everything for which he stood.

On this last point which Wilkerson addressed so astutely, I would like to draw your attention to the works of E. O. Wilson who extrapolated the concept of eusociality (i.e. high-order social behavior in species) into the study of sociobiology which identifies a second dimension to Darwinian evolution.  More specifically, it describes the process of natural selection between eusocial groups in addition to the same dynamic between individuals.  The pronounced tribalism Wilkerson noted in his critiques of conservatives – which manifests itself as white nationalism, xenophobia, and religious fanaticism – is an illustrative example of Wilson’s insightful theory.

See:  E.O. Wilson – Of Ants and Men (premiered Wednesday, September 30, 2015)


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