In yesterday's post, I referred to contemporary America as a "Barbecue Republic" and a "militaristic, theocratic oligarchy." Since it's not my intention to toss out terms like this loosely, it may be worth spending a column or so discussing why I chose to use these terms.
"Barbecue Republic" is obviously derivative of "Banana Republic." I don't think "Banana Republic" accurately describes America because in a Banana Republic, the oppression of dissent is fairly obvious--armed troops marching in the streets, enemies of the state lined up against the wall and shot, propaganda that no one would mistake for entertainment or educational information.
A "Barbecue Republic" as I define the term, is one in which a civil veneer of equality and normalcy is maintained. It evokes a vision of Americans of all social and economic strata enjoying summer fun out on the back porch or the back forty, mutually sharing the benefits of living in a "free" country.
A Barbecue Republic denies or camouflages underlying realities. Enemies of the state aren't tied to a post and shot. They're smeared, their careers are ruined, their personalities are destroyed.
Giant posters of the Barbecue Republic's fearless leader don't hang in public squares, and nationalistic harangues don't blare from loudspeakers. Barbecue propaganda slips into the regular news and entertainment media, dressed up as...well, news and entertainment.
In a Banana Republic, citizens fear their own government. In a Barbecue Republic, citizens fear external enemies, and the government ensures that the citizens always have plenty of enemies to fear--axes of them, in fact. When one enemy bites the dust, two or three more are already on deck to take its place.
Banana Republics have one-party systems. Barbecue Republics have two or more parties, but it's a) difficult to tell the difference between them or b) one party has control of so much of the government that the other party doesn't constitute a true opposition.
In Banana Republics, the head of state has no constitutional checks and balances on his powers. Barbecue Republics have constitutional checks and balances, but the head of state ignores them and gets away with it.
Banana Republic governments are corrupt, but the corruption is legal. In a Barbecue Republic, committees tasked to investigate corruption find it at the lowest possible levels.
I could go on, but I reckon you get the idea. Please feel free to post a comment and add Barbecue-isms of your own.
Tomorrow, I'll delve into the "militaristic, theocratic oligarchy" thing.