Every day brings its discomforts, until it all gets to be too much and I boil over. I know I am not alone in my thinking, but I am dismayed that sensible voices are being silenced or ignored. My current list of grievances:
The uproar over mandated health insurance. If everyone participates in the system, care is more affordable for everyone. We require car insurance and mortgage insurance (sometimes); what's so different about health insurance? Let people contribute on a sliding scale, but bring everyone into the system.
The outrageous things said by Republican candidates in their debates and elsewhere: denial of climate change, denial of basic civil rights to the LGBT community, resurrection of the gold standard, total obduracy vis a vis anything proposed by Obama, insistence that America is a "Christian" country, absurd defense of the wealthy alongside scorn for those in need. I could go on.
Is it just me, or does the WHOLE country seem to be tilting farther and farther right? Why are so few willing to admit to being a "liberal?" Why are so many silent? That may be what bothers me most of all--the silence. Wall Street is occupied by protesters for days, yet the mainstream media doesn't mention it. It took Michael Moore to get the media's attention. I'm sorry to say, I don't believe Michael Moore's voice is the best one to speak for the good and the true these days. He gets attention with his baseball cap and sneakers, but his clownlike presentation of himself only alienates the more sober folk who should be his comrades-in-arms. Al Gore is more serious, but he lacks flash. Where are those who can speak for liberals, be taken seriously, and receive the public attention they deserve? The silent majority, I assume, is moderate, temperate, responsible, compassionate--qualities that don't attract attention or headlines. The Tea Party with its fulminators, its cranks, its ignorance, is front and center; it is, I fear, becoming respectable.
I can't help thinking of Germany in the 'thirties. A paranoid megalomaniac was able to transform a tiny cohort of followers into a vicious society, wherein regular folks were turned into monsters, and the crowds cheered. I worry that some of the same forces are astir in our land. We assassinate our enemies, and we cheer. We don't turn a hair when the uninsured suffer and the unemployed seek sustenance. It's every man for himself, and Ayn Rand is considered a hero. "Freedom" and "liberty" are code words for "I've got mine, Jack, so f--- off." A political movement fueled by anger is unpredictable and potentially uncontrollable. The Right today feels nothing else, from Wayne LaPierre and his paranoid fantasies about the second amendment to Sarah Palin and her hatred of just about everything, from Rush Limbaugh to the whole tribe at Fox News. Anger is energizing, but it is also frightening.
Place these alongside each other and ask yourself which you would choose:
"Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
The Great Society, one of whose aims was to end hunger in America.
FDR standing up to the big banks and averting a revolution.
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit.
The GI Bill.
Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
The Civil Rights Act
Requiring photo ID in order to vote, thus disenfranchising thousands of people.
Building a "Berlin Wall" along our borders.
An enchantment with guns that goes beyond reasonable limits.
Ignoring habeus corpus.
Debilitating wars with so many unintended consequences it's hard to count them.
Prejudice against anyone who is "different." The denial of rights and protections to those so defined.
Laws based on the beliefs of one religion.
What scares me is that a sizable portion of Americans would choose the second list. Once a tipping point is reached, it may be impossible to impede a rush to destruction. Public office is for sale. Religious disputes are settled with horrifying violence. Enemies of the state are held incommunicado in secret locations. Illegal wiretaps and covert surveillance of innocent people are commonplace. Foreigners are treated like criminals; alternative lifestyles are considered deviant. Sexual exploitation is rampant in the sexualization of children, advertising, and entertainment. Privacy is invaded, and difference of opinion is branded treasonous. Rome once thought itself the "eternal city," until the sale of public office, the corruption of the legislature, debauchery, cruelty, and the repudiation of republican values led to disaster and eclipse. America is no more eternal than Rome, but we have history to learn from. We will need more than monasteries to keep culture alive if we don't learn how to choose between the better and the worse.