Before any super patriots tell me that if I don’t like America I should move to France they should know my first choice of lands in which to repatriate would be New Zealand. I remain enraptured with French cinema and French novelists nevertheless. But frankly, nobody is dragging me out of LA without a fight.
Yes, in many respects America retains her greatness. She certainly retains her military power and her economic might. But let’s face it: a great deal about us has become farcical. There is no other way to put it. Likewise, there is no finagling the hard conclusion that the power of our singular form of increasingly retrograde and radical conservatism has contributed no small amount to our status as a developing laughing stock.
Take Florida (please). A microcosm of the extent to which our political system has degenerated into babble, obscene amounts of money better spent almost anywhere for anything produce a saturation of the state’s humanity with advertisements containing practically nothing that is materially factual, and nothing that could under the most generous of interpretations be construed as information.
Citizens in this otherwise mature democracy remain all too often misinformed, in part due to the massive machinery of propaganda and in part due to a corporate media that has abdicated responsibility and commitment to truth in favor of a dubious “balance”. That nearly half of us take the right to vote for granted and fail to do so could be the proverbial blessing in disguise. Farce, indeed.
Our highest court has deemed, and many of our conservative politicians agree that corporations are people, while huge segments of our actual people are in fact deemed disposable, particularly in the eyes of those same reactionaries for whom the personhood of the corporation is sanctified. Likewise, according to the philosophical disposition fashionable among segments of our political right personal income is the only legitimate measure of human worth, and the only criterion for human dignity, the absence of income or accumulated assets commensurate with an absence of political and human rights. Uglier than farce, really.
While the overwhelming majority of the citizens of our nation regards the very idea of corporate personhood to be a rank absurdity, and while a similarly overwhelming majority considers the degree to which money and power inordinately warp our political process and our society to be an abomination that majority is for all practical purposes powerless to change a thing. This in a nation defined by its status as the first in human history with the constitutional ability to scrap the actual Constitution and start again from scratch.
In fact, the abiding mantra of our democratic republic is, “majority rules.” Except for the embarrassing technicality that it actually doesn’t. That one of our legislative bodies requires the consent of 60% of its membership to effectively accomplish anything in a nation so polarized a majority of 60% is a rare occurrence, makes for dysfunction of farcical, if not Biblical proportion.
In a nation in which the roads, the schools, the bridges, the airports, the reservoirs and all physical manifestation of the nation itself is perceptibly crumbling before our eyes, when the health, education and physical and economic mobility of our citizenry is comparatively sinking among the nations of the world the prevailing discussion in our national square is the excessiveness of our investment in the public domain. Funny.
Millions of our citizens are reduced to bankruptcy annually by their daunting medical bills (medical costs responsible for over half of all bankruptcies in the United States) yet elements of our body politic resist as if their lives rather than others’ depended upon it reforms every other modern nation adopted long ago…at extraordinary financial and human costs to all of us. What modest reform has been enacted is disparaged and threatened by vested interests and their political consiglieres.
At a time when revenues are said to be scarce, the wealthy oxymoronically described as overburdened, and commitments to the security of the middle class all but permanently abandoned here, the United States retains a military establishment and a military expenditure larger than that of every nation on earth combined, the largest nuclear arsenal and a massive conventional force (including 650 military bases around the world) at a historical moment when there are no major military powers of comparable status besides us remaining in the world.
In view of this largesse, one cannot help but recall the embittered and never-ending political bloodshed over whether a commitment of resources to our elderly, our citizens living in poverty, our ailing and dependent children, and in fact our middle-class desperately in need of opportunity and investment are commitments worthy of our resources.
Admittedly such observations are glib, and admittedly they are commonplace. But, if watching the primary contest in Florida today and the ensuing drama of which of two Olympian prevaricators eventually will vie for the presidency of these United States, you too feel you have awakened a character in a Beckett play you are not alone.
It’s grim, but grimly funny, too.