“The system was rotten. This had been said over and over; yet the old hulk was immovable. When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.”
—Historian Jacques Barzun on the state of the Catholic Church in the 15th century
“Yet the old hulk was immovable.” That about sums up America’s political infrastructure today.
Republicans and Democrats alike self-righteously bemoan the condition of America’s highways, bridges, rails and mass transit. Our electrical grid is inefficient and our nuclear plants ancient. America’s coal plants liberally spew carcinogens and our public water systems criminally leak billions of gallons. Our antiquated waste treatment facilities are inadequate and America’s groundwater is becoming undeniably undrinkable. As William Bendix often said in “The Life of Riley” — “What a revolting development.” As bad as our increasing third-world infrastructure is, our democratic infrastructure is in worse condition.
As a fiscally conservative liberal — Yes, ye simplistic Rushian Ditto-Heads, we do exist — I have become increasingly despondent over the prospects of America turning around the ship of state. I ask my more affluent readers, what good are First Class deck chairs when you’re booked on the Titanic?
Is America the 21st century ship of fools? Our future denied to us as we straightjacket (hang) ourselves with idiotic conservative platitudes and ineffectual liberal pieties?
Our Supreme Court has become just another “bought and sold” branch of government. Our system of checks and balances, a joke. Common good? Common future? No more, gentle reader. We’ve been bought and sold. And cheaply, I might add. And the brand tattooed on our backside is “$ucker!”
Rather than “fix” our public schools, we auction them off to Jeb Bush-inspired, for-profit consortiums of capitalistic leeches, corporations that prosper off the “common good.” Everything is on the auction block, folks. Our roads, our water, our schools, our government, our souls.
Might America’s future be some dystopian combo of a “Mad Max Matrix” where vast numbers of our populace invest their hours lulled by the mind-numbing Huxley “soma” of the Internet — “there is always soma, delicious soma.” While others of our agitated citizenry gun-up and dumb-down awaiting “some” rapture, a scene of such pointlessness that it is right out of “Waiting for Godot?”
Our options are few. Our choices, negligible. The 2012 presidential election is a perfect example of both. Elect Obama and it’s a government of small choices and limited change. Or, elect Romney and America gets “Norquistian no-tax” tax cuts for the wealthy (a redux of Bush 43’s polarizing and impoverishing economic policy). Yes, and a return to the neo-con foreign policy of costly wars supporting American imperialism. Either option is poor, but I much prefer Obama to Romney.
Yet either man’s election solidifies an already-polarized electorate, guaranteeing more divided government. And our ship of state lists even more. Oh, lucky us, oh, fortunate America.
One of my favorite pieces of literature is “Candide” by Voltaire. In it Voltaire explores a time such as America now experiences. The light of reason and progress has dimmed. Corrupt. Despotic. Superstitious. Unparalleled greed and fraud.
A man once confident in “The Enlightenment,” Voltaire offered that the only course for the sane man is to retreat, and “cultivate our garden.”
With absurdity our new norm, withdrawing to one’s garden may, indeed, be the wisest choice.
Jepson is a 24-year resident of Florida. He’s fiscally conservative, socially liberal, likes art and embraces diversity of opinion. Reach him at Jepson@MEDIAmerica.US