It feels as though we have all slipped down the rabbit hole into a parallel universe with which Alice (and Orwell) would be very familiar. In this new place, right is wrong, black is white and good is bad. We eat food that is killing us. We watch television and movies filled with violence and human slaughter and call it entertainment. We carry guns in order to feel safe. We pave the earth and call it progress. We wage war in the name of peace. Lies are truth, and the truth is a quaint vestige of a more innocent age resting in a plaque on the fireplace mantle.
In this parallel universe, instead of moving forward toward increased enlightenment, we work hard to turn the clock back to earlier, darker periods of human existence ruled by superstition, paranoia and fear of the unknown. Intolerance is acceptable. Willful ignorance the attitude of the moment. Religious fundamentalism the latest drug of choice. We are losing the battle against the true god of Western Civilization, money, as it lures us farther and farther away from what’s right to what’s Right.
What has happened to us that we let superstition and pre-Enlightenment views of the world sound sensible and draw us farther away from reason and logic? What mass hysteria is on us that so many people view as real stories about events that simply could not have taken place. We laugh knowingly at tales of elves and fairies but swear on our bibles to the reality of angels and talking serpents. There was an “Age of Miracles” according to Christians, a finite period of time when all manner of supernatural evens occurred on earth. Conveniently, it ended a really long time ago. Today, the best we can hope for is a water stain that looks like a bleeding Jesus or a vision of a saint hovering above a field witnessed by a goat herder and his dog. No one parts seas, receives tablets from god or raises people from the dead. Too bad. But in religion, you have the luxury of being able to rationalize anything.
I’m old enough to have lived through 10 presidencies. The baby boom. Camelot. Vietnam. The Great Society. Watergate. Iran hostages. Trickle down economics. No new taxes. Bubba. Each president left his mark, for better or worse, but no head of state, including Richard Nixon, has steered this country farther away from the principles that made it great than George W. Bush. As a direct result of Bush’s policies, we are no longer leaders of the free world as we once were, but instead we are free world bullies, using military might to push our views on others whether they want it or not. Those in the international community who disagree with us or question our motives are seen as enemy sympathizers and disparaged, serving to isolate us even further. The world is not an interdependent community of nations, according to this administration, but a Star Wars-like battlefield of good versus evil, where you’re either with us or against us. We have lost the respect of many countries as we selfishly pursue our national interests at the expense of all other interests. In our own country, our government-induced paranoia is allowing authoritarian ideologists, with the assistance of a compliant media, to strip away basic personal freedoms and turn us into a nation of frightened sheep, hence, easier to control. The economy is manipulated to help those who help political parties, not those who truly need help. Social progress is stunted, public education short-changed and the environment put up for sale to the highest bidder. On the individual level, we’ve capitulated to those who despised an engaged citizenry by substituting robotic slogans for independent thinking, covering our hearts with flag decals and selling our souls for tax cuts.
These are dark times in America as we turn our gaze ever more inward and ever more toward our own perceived self interests. But here’s the thing that so many people either forget or have never learned: Our current situation is not the result of the alignment of the planets or terrorist threats or the French. It is happening because of the inept, backward-looking policies of the Bush Administration. It is happening because ideologically-driven men and women have seen their ascension to power as a sign that they are doing God’s work and he must be pleased to have allowed them to reach such levels of leadership. These are deluded people who would install a theocracy in America if given the chance. The reality is that politics does matter. It matters who is in the White House. It matters who is at the helm of this nation and what course that person is taking. An uninformed, disengaged citizenry is ripe for the picking by opportunists, extremists and con-artists. And with the Bush administration, we’ve hit the tri-fecta. The solution? There are only four alternatives: Vote Bush and his cronies out of office and send them back to Crawford where they can actually do something useful, like clear brush; impeach him if he wins (steals) another election; take to the streets; or watch American democracy suffocate and die.