Sunday, July 25, 2004

Open doors and slippery floors; these are only hints of life

It's Sunday, one day before the Democratic National Convention in Boston, and I'm looking across the swath of issues that confront my life, my well being, my personal little world, which is connected to my fellow citizens only by virtue of existence.

And I wonder, do politicians, specifically the presidential candidates, have a clue what it's like to live in America today? Do any of them understand what it is to get a paycheck and have that check spent by the time it's electronically noted in a bank? Do any of them have a clue what it's like to watch the unfolding events in a mid-size town and realize that most of what passes as news has little or no connection to the lives in that town? The relationship between the led and their leaders is unraveling. A yawning gap is opening between lawmakers and the public. America today looks very little like the America I remember only 20 years ago. It's 2004, and in 1984 it would have been hard to imagine a nation like ours today, suddenly plunged into a darkness created by state-sanctioned secrecy, state-sanctioned arrest without due process, state-sanctioned surveillance without court order.

In 1969, many young people knew that Herbert Hoover and his gang – the FBI – had dossiers on private citizens, files that contained intimate and personal information that, if thrown into the light of disclosure would have created a storm of dissent among even the most lethargic among the great American majority.

And yet, today we have a "homeland" that is no longer for the people, by the people, but rather one that is for the elite and by the elite. And bought and sold government that resembles, more than anything else, a nascent dictatorship complete with the requisite equipment of dictators – to wit, a powerful military branch that's willing to blindly follow edicts from the executive branch, even up to and including wielding deadly force against its citizenry; a powerful police presence that's willing follow orders, including the wielding of deadly force against its citizenry. So much power has accrued to the executive and legislative branches of our government today that the lawmakers actually considered, this week, the dissolution of the judicial branch of our governmental system. This would be achieved by a proposed law that would dissolve the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over state appeals courts as regards the issue of gay marriages. Gay marriages! The Congress and, even more on point, the president has raised the issue to the level of national crisis! If the consequences of the arguments – mostly based in religious and moral divinations – weren't so potentially damaging to the nation it would be a laughably ridiculous issue. But we have a president who believes that God speaks through and to him (I guess it's a private telephone line??? and I wonder "which God?") and, therefore, believes that national government should reflect his moral judgments as de facto edicts from on high. And his view of gay marriage is, to say the least, dim at best. Now I would argue that states ought to consider the issue and allow the dialogue to unfold among them, leaving the resolution to the lower courts for the time-being. I think that Congress ought not waste its time arguing about such a basic issue as gay marriage, particularly when it has much larger fish to fry.

This strategy, and I believe it is a strategy by the GOP, of throwing about moral issues as if they represented the underlying foundation of our nation's ability to govern itself is a distraction designed to keep the electorate from questioning those larger "fish." In effect, the GOP picks up moral questions, usually those embraced by rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth Evangelicals, and imposes said questions upon the people by use of the podium from the floors of the Senate and House. The recipe looks something like this: Whip up a whirlwind of blind emotion among the electorate by couching the/an issue in language that's carefully crafted to elicit fear, anger, paranoia, homophobic sentiments, revulsion, etceteras ad-infinitum, and send out the 'troops' to repeat the message over and over in their respective jurisdictions until anyone who pays attention even slightly to the political debate du jour will be able to parrot or regurgitate the language verbatim, though without having any substantive thought underlying the argument. In fact, argument is exactly what the GOP wants people to overlook. Rather, by the GOP's lights, people are better led by blindly following, thinking only in terms of the GOP-crafted message on a given issue. Plainly, the GOP's (and the president's) aim is to create a negative response that so overwhelms the minds of its constituents that any practical, reasonable debate on the subject is impossible because the constituents' minds are concretely set, framed and decided. Voile! Without ever having examined an issue – in this case, gay marriage – the GOP faithful have come to heartfelt, sure-footed conclusions, anchored by moral certainty and supported by illusion and fear. In terms of rationale or cognitive argument.

For politicians, this recipe is perfect for blowing smoke up the collective skirts of the electorate and, sadly, it works more often than not.

With pseudo-intellectual talk show hosts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh pounding incessantly the drums of the GOP issue du jour and rolling over dissent or reasoned argument like brute elephants rampaging through flimsily-built villages, enraged by bees stinging their balls, it's little wonder that the GOP (and its Evangelical thugs) made such enormous strides through the American political landscape in the last two decades.

The GOP is leading the charge into the 17th Century! Turning back the clock in America so that "we the people" no longer retain a voice in government, but rather are led about by our noses through either the force of arms or the force of idiocy imposed upon us by the rhetoric and mandates of federal representatives who embrace the "correct" point of view, which is to say, the Evangelical's thoughtless, blind faith in selected biblical passages.

Once a secular nation, we are fast-becoming an ecclesiastic government, controlled by ordained representatives approved by Evangelical church leaders.

Sound crazy? I would hope so, but I don't doubt it for a second.

Have a nice day : )


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