May 13, 2008

Vanishing America

The America I grew up with is receding like the tide of the Bay of Fundy, but, unlike that tide, can never return. I believe that most of what is termed "progress" today is rampant capitalism gouging profits from everything in sight. Someday they will tax the air. I can see the day coming when they'll put a plastic bag over your head if you haven't paid the air tax. They already are selling water in bottles, much of it right out of a tap somewhere. The America I grew up in wasn't perfect (what is?) but it was nicer. Before the Interstates were built (for trucks and "national security,") roads were mostly two-lane and went through actual cities and towns from coast-to-coast. If you broke down, there usually was some place nearby. Now you can speed along the truck-rutted Interstates from one overpriced lookalike fast food joint and gas station to another, seeing little of the people and places along the way. People who work in them don't even know the neighborhood so forget about asking for directions. Every feeding trough and overpriced gas station is more positive proof that capitalism is out-of-control and uncaring about the "quality of life." At leasts our lives.

Since I was born in 1941, I have lived through WW II, the Korean War (why do they call it a "Conflict?") the Vietnam War, the El Salvador War, the Contra War, the ongoing Cuban War, various military adventures and CIA interventions from Chile to Angola, the Cold War, and now the Iraq-Afghanistan War, which is the sinkhole where our surplus disappeared. War is the greatest evil alongside slavery, and we have them both, all of the time, in varying degrees of intensity and expense. But most people don't seem to notice. The worst sort of slavery is thinking it's freedom.

The fate of Empire is self-destruction. Every empire that ever was has fallen and been destroyed by military defeat and internal corruption. The notion that the United States is a "superpower" is dangerous and fallacious. No one has ever conquered the world, or ever will. If you are proud that our country is a "superpower," your pride is leading to our destruction. At least since the Tsar's Rescript of 1896 and even before, the populations of the world have clamored for peace and groaned under the burden of ever more-terrible war. But the war parties of various nations, especially our own, have vetoed our wishes and tightened their grip on our politics, the public mind, and the public purse. As usual, a war is fought for profits and power behind the false rhetoric of "peace," "liberty," "freedom," "justice," "religion" or "spreading democracy."

Leaders with glaring character defects and obvious personality disorders follow one another like marionettes to the throne of power in the White House, where the President is simply a King in civilian clothes. Modern dynasties of corporations and governments wield immense power to do harm, and often do. The people of the United States, conditioned even before First Grade to the habits of "patriotism" ("I pledge allegiance to the flag...") regularly validate one or another of these people to high office, and often re-elect them on the promise to fix what they alone have broken.

We are trapped in an illogical and wasteful economic and political cage, and most people are impelled to act or not act by one kind of fear or another. Fear of losing their jobs, fear of being different, fear of not being different, fear of street crime, fear of other races and nations, fear of real freedom, fear of losing their car keys, fear of not being perceived as they would like and above all, fear of change. It is probably overly polite to point out that most Americans are "morally challenged." Endemic under-education, hypocritical professions of religious faith, public depravity, the highest per capita prison population in the world, spiraling crime, seemingly inborn violence, onerous taxes and tax-giveaways to the powerful and wealthy, are only symptoms of a system of thought and worship deeply diseased from their beginnings in Ancient Greece and Rome.

Research and development of weapons of war is the foco-motor of our economy. Whenever it slows, this motor is acceleated. War is the biggest business of all. Microsoft is a small enterprise when compared with it. If weapons expenditures were significantly reduced, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, would lose their jobs. The minds of the people themselves have been warped and mutated by this monstrous ongoing buildup for slaughter in the name of "national security." We are less secure today than we were when we were in a nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union. Yet, the powerlessness of our people to do anything about it is evident to anyone whose eyes are not blinded by the cataracts of politics, ideology, or religion. Anyone who has read real history can see that our nation is headed for destruction because it is too rich, too lazy, and too arrogant toward the rest of the world.

How can we stop the advance to national doom, when we regularly validate and re-validate the leadership of parties whose policies have broken our system in the first place? You want to give the guy who broke the thing the job of fixing it?

I honestly don't know. I used to think that political struggle and "peoples' power" could change things, and I worked in the antiwar and civil rights movements for more than 30 years; but I don't believe this course will change much, anymore. I see and feel the fear, anger, confusion, and repressed fury all around me. I see it in the anxious, boisterous faces of people in noisy bars and swanky outdoor cafes, where gaiety, trivial conversations, and excessive drinking and drug-use merely mask the evasive and fearful temperament of our people. I see it in the widespread depression of people who work in mind-killing jobs that make them angry and feeling unappreciated.

Now I believe in God (of a trillion trillion names) and believe that only God can fix anything. But people profess belief in God without demonstrating it by going without weapons and acting peaceably toward others. For those of you who believe in Jesus as God, I will say one thing: As I read him, Jesus taught us fasting, prayer, and to "fear not death, because God is always with you." I believe that God works through those who believe in Him. I know that I can do little to help people believe this, and I certainly can't cure them of anything or prevent the destruction of the American Nation. I'm not a missionary, and it isn't my job to "spread the Word." But no one person or collection of persons can accomplish anything of merit without the help of God.

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