Saturday, May 14, 2016 12:29 AM
If the end times come and the orange excrescence is voted president by a majority of Americans, we will have become victims of our own success, just like every empire before the American. When this country started out, we kicked out a king by force of arms—that’s commitment. Then we quelled a few rebellions and fought the War of 1812, after carefully designing a brand-new, unheard-of form of government.
Then we got stuck on some of the finer points and fought a Civil War over them. People attended their local town halls as religiously as they went to church. People sued each other as a hobby—the source of the term ‘litigious’—and not to rip someone off, like they do today—these people sued over the principle of the thing. Yes, it was stupid, in excess—but it was excessive involvement in self-government.
Women’s Liberation tried unsuccessfully to get an Equal Rights Amendment passed in the 1970s—but the real fight, the one women fought until they won, was for the right to vote, back at the turn of the previous century—they knew, as the Civil Rights movement knew later on, that all power, and change, comes from the power to vote.
Today we have even forgotten that it is self-government. Things have run fairly smoothly, if you’re in the mainstream (i.e. white, male, Christian, rich, etc.) and the idea that we all attend town hall on a regular basis is just a bit of quaint whimsy in “Gilmore Girls”—to lend it that old-timey New England flavor. Today’s ‘town halls’ are just a cable-news-show format for politicians. And today’s litigious aren’t political cranks—they’re rich people hiring lawyers to rip off poor people. Lobbyists, political patrons, and commercially-biased journalists have more influence on present politics than the voters do.
As the world, and our country, became more crowded, more hurried, and more complex, our politics devolved into the simplicity of a sporting event, which the voters watch on TV and then vote for their ‘team’—no one expects our government to react decisively on behalf of the people, as Roosevelt did with the New Deal, or as Johnson did with the Civil Rights Act. Today’s politicians are only required to react to the 24-hour-news-cycle’s latest story, knowing that tomorrow’s story will gloss over any cracks in their reasoning.
It reminds me of when I was a young, first-time car owner—I knew that maintaining a car was a thing—but I’d never done anything with my car except get in and drive around—I thought putting the gas in was all the maintenance that mattered. One day, I ran out of oil and my engine block seized up—ever since then, owning a car has been much more hassle and less fun—but I use a car now without destroying it.
We’ve been driving America for quite a while now, arguing over which turns to take—but nobody is worrying about whether the oil needs changing, or if the tires are bald. We’re too busy driving the car to take care of it. And it’s going to end up smoking by the side of the road—I know. America is in danger of falling victim to its own success—we take it all as given, like it can’t ever go away. The truth is that our wonderful lives are the product of a lot of effort that we no longer see—or see the need for.
America invented Public Education because we recognized that people can’t govern themselves if they are ignorant—it has become a world standard, that we are now falling behind on. That’s not a good sign. Education and journalism—real journalism—are two things that helped make America great—losing both of them is going to hurt us more with every passing day. We may not see it right now, but we’re losing important pillars of democracy—and without democracy in the mix, capitalism becomes fascism by paycheck.
I’d say we could use another World War—they always seem to perk us up—but we went and made nuclear bombs and screwed that whole thing up. I guess it’s time for some other country to advance humanity’s cause. That’s the only good news in all this—the American Empire may be headed the way of all empires—but there’s always another empire just around the corner. And let’s face it—if your elected leader is Donald Trump, it’s time to call it a day.