I’m sad. Usually, humor is my way of facing the terrible things in the world. But today, I do not feel humorous. I’m sad.
My parents were first generation Americans, battered by the great depression, hardened by the personal losses of war, yet open to the possibilities of the future. For their time, they were progressives. My mother was a political firebrand dedicated to the principles of the New Deal and ready to do battle with anyone who would threaten it. In our kitchen hung two portraits, one of Jesus and one of President Roosevelt. It was not my imagination that FDR’s hung just slightly higher.
It was in this backdrop I was raised to work hard, make the best of what talents I had, and above all, be generous to people who have not been as fortunate. Above all, never forget the promise that was America. Never forget the hope that brought their parents here, and always respect the government and institutions that guaranteed those possibilities. Yes, it was a flawed system, but, my mother, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, would always say “all the others are so much worse”. My parents passed on, but their lessons are seared in my heart forever.
I am sad today because we live in an America where the possibilities of my parents’ generation are seriously diminished. The great middle class is under attack, but this time the attack is being aided and abetted by the indifference of our electorate and the virtual disappearance of an analytical press.
Since 9/11, we have become a nation of fear. Fear of Islam, fear of immigrants, fear of anything that is not white America. This is not the culture that nourished me, taught me to think and reason for myself, to participate in the democracy my father and uncles fought and died for. This is a culture of hate, feed by the idolatry of power and the greed of lawless oil and war profiteers. Bush’s disregard for the rule of law, Cheney’s criminal support of torture, and Rumsfeld’s cavalier attitude to the destructive nature of war is blithely flipped off as just politics as usual. Instead of being taken to the Hague to account for their crimes, they are given speaking fees and cable news contracts.
At home, republicans and blue dog democrats have made an almost daily ritual of attacking the foundations of the New Deal and Great Society. We watch Wall Street strip away any semblance of fairness and honesty in relentless pursuit and acquisition of wealth. At the same time, our politicians blame the consequences of this greed on the poor, the old, the hungry, and the homeless. We are told daily by conservatives that hard work will always reward you with success while poverty is the natural punishment of the lazy. Governors like Scott Walker take pride in the destruction of the middle class and the unions that helped make it great. He compares its defenders to terrorists, yet I knew its defenders to be veterans who fought to save democracy and returned home to quietly rebuild a nation. Governors like Rick Scott see evil in the right to vote and seeks to remove this most precious right from the legacy of these veterans. Governors like Rick Perry who refused to allow his fellow citizens to have the same access to a doctor that he enjoys. Stubbornly he resisted the expansion of Medicaid in the name of some cynical interpretation of what he calls “liberty”. Yet there can be no liberty in watching a fellow human die to serve your perverted ideology.
Watching this all unravel is an electorate who largely sit idly by content to obsess about the Oscars, Brian Williams’ misstatements, and how close Bill O’Reilly got to Maggie Thatcher’s version of War Lords. In 2014, only 36.4% of the voting eligible population bothered to leave the couch. The most cited reason? No time in our schedules. I wonder where the men and women who served to protect these rights found time in their schedules. My parents are dead or I would ask them, although I can imagine the response. So we allow our government to be over run by the
Tea Party John Birch Society while we find the time in our schedules to spend hours on Twitter debating the color of a dress. In the mean time, the press, the Fourth Estate, instead of safeguarding our democracy by critically rendering the truth through thorough journalism, instead is reduced to the likes of Chuck Todd. Mr. Todd summed up the state of our press by instructing us that we should not expect the press to correct falsehoods. Really, Mr. Todd? We have now become so lazy and complacent that we no longer are required to seek the truth. Well of course, Mr. Todd has no time to seek the truth because he’s due in makeup in five minutes. I wonder what would have happened if my parents’ generation said “it’s not my job to stop Hitler”. Enough said.
So, today I cannot find any humor in the death of democracy in America. I am sad. I am sad that because today the rabble will cheer at CPAC for every speaker who wants to kill a union, destroy a living wage, or punish the poor because they are poor. I am sad because today the media will report on this thinly veiled KKK meeting as important and exciting. I am sad that no one who listens to those reports will care enough to listen to what they are really saying. I am sad that no one cares. I am sad that the country I grew up in is dying.