Sarah Palin giving speechAmerican parking lotsTeaparty billboardMassey mountain-top removal coal mine, W. Va.Roger Clemens departing arraignment hearingRanch, South DakotaTexas City, Texas; BP refinery in backgroundNogales, New Mexico, then and nowJ.P. Morgan, 1904Meth lab, Kalamazoo, MichiganSalmonella tainted Wright County Egg factory, Galt, IowaSingle-bullet theory JFK diagramLouisiana shrimp shopRonnie Lee Gardner, last Utah prisoner to be executed by firing squadGlacier National Park, MontanaButte, Mt (photo Lynn Weaver)Leo Castelli, art dealer (with Ruscha on wall)
It is autumn on an even numbered year, and in turn it is time for America to crank up its bi-annual electoral machinery to its maximum pitch. As customary and traditional the word high and low is that the newly installed President’s party is headed for a come-down, in this case perhaps a loss of its majority in the House and Senate. Not that the closing two year cycle suggests it would make much difference: with a commanding, though “blue dog” tainted, majority in both chambers, the Democrats could barely limp a step without kow-towing to the vociferous shouts of right-wing commentators and politicians, who endlessly suggested Obama was in any event not legitimate by nature of his birthplace, his religion, and, sent only by transparent code words, his color. For some in America a (half) black man cannot be resident in the White House. These same people generally take their words literally, whether in this case, or in the Bible.
President Obama has, by his turn, not served himself well since the election. Admittedly faced with an avalanche of welcome-to-the-job problems (thank you Mr Bush and company), which he faced with a calm coolness which might be admirable in some contexts, and in truth for the problems he faced was the right comportment – yet the tenor of the nation begged for passion and he seems to all appearances to be dispassionate. Entering office he was perched on a wave of genuine public enthusiasm which he promptly deflated with both his demeanor and his staff and policy choices. Perhaps this is revealing of his real political beliefs, which if so are essentially hard-core American corporate conservative with a lip service to broader public interests, or perhaps it was revealing of a naive political miscalculation. In either case, much of the liberal/left is sorely disappointed, while the seething right clearly declines to be mollified by any gesture of compromise.
Thusly are our politics reduced to a pathetic cartoon in which the utterance of any truthful analysis of our national circumstance is political suicide. No, our temperamental children will not face any reality that deprives them of their instant gratification. Being woefully ill-educated, trained for decades to be selfish first and social last, and to run in horror at any word that begins with “c-o-m” our voting public is now bent on social destruction, deluded that they can have everything, pay no taxes, war for fun while utterly ignoring it, trash their neighbors, and somehow the grand “American Exceptionalism” will exempt them from all costs. Naturally it will not, and as the cost is being applied, our electorate appears to be running full-tilt into the arms of exactly those who sold them the sweet story that you could have it all and not pay for it. Were Reagan alive in two years, he’d probably win in a landslide of historic proportions, never mind it was his philosophy and economic policies which induced our current situation. Ah, but he was, despite being a rather bad actor, a very good politician in that he could pull the wool over almost any sentimentalist’s eyes.
Thirty years on we are paying a very steep price for this shared delusion, and given the mind-set of the public, the price will likely get a lot steeper as our lemming herd runs as fast as it can to all the wrong people and policies – a sure-fire formula for even worse problems in the coming years. Doubling down on our misguided practices is going to require the “miracle” which our Glenn Beck’s pray for, but the real world doesn’t work on miracles or snake oil. Americans, accustomed to thinking of themselves as “different” and always being Number One, are likely to show their meanest and nastiest side as their delusions crumble about them. The current season is merely a prelude.