We Americans wave our nation's flag and crow our national anthem, self-assured, full of pride, assuming our jingoistic clattering will continue to fool the world that we are an honorable nation. Instead, we are exposing ourselves as pretenders to the democratic values our forefathers defined for us.
"America, who are we?" asks Charles Blow in his NY Times op-ed piece: "Are we - or better yet - should we be - a nation that tortures detainees, or targets and kills American citizens with drones, or has broad discretion to spy on the American public."
The recently revealed CIA criminal actions against prisoners held in secret, offshore cells, including Guantanamo, goes to the very heart of our country's corruption - America's heart. Their inhumane torture utterly violates the values we pretend to stand for, ignoring the Geneva Convention. The fact that it was authorized by the Bush White House makes it that much worse.
Worse still, Dick Chaney's blustering defense of our tortuous actions against these detainees - some of whom were there by mistake! - is an embarrassment to this nation: "I'd do it over again in a minute," he protests, in defense of his and W's authorizations (implied or not) of same, having the gall to claim that the CIA's "rectal feeding" and "rectal re-hydration" were "done for medical purposes." Remember, this is the guy that hid behind five deferments - five! - to avoid serving his country in the military. And, along with Donald Rumsfeld, led W. to initiate America's first and only unprovoked war against a foreign nation in our country's history.
Dick Cheney is a metaphor for everything that's wrong with America today. But he's not alone, not by far.
Are we the nation who's "have's" have established the widest financial gap with the "have not's" in our country's recent history, with no end in sight - once again enabled by our congress to make it even wider? The upper 1% now holds more dollars than the lower 42%! Is this really us?
At the behest of Wall Street's biggest banks (Citigroup, along with help from JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon), Republican lawmakers slipped a line in their latest budget proposal, at the last minute, repealing one of the signature provisions of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill (Section 716) - the one that required banks to put portions of their riskier derivatives into holding companies, thereby protecting US tax payers from the liability for insuring those questionable investments. In one fell swoop congress puts taxpayers back on the slippery financial slope.
Is this fair and right? For who?
This same 2015 budget approval includes a provision that increases the amount individuals can contribute to a national political party from $32,400 to $324,000. By adding a single grotesque zero to the contribution limit our Congress has extended the Supreme Court's gift to corporations (see Citizens United v Federal Election Commission) to individuals, and handed even more unilateral power to the "haves." Ten times as much.
It's as if Gordon Gekko was right, again: "Greed is good."
During the final months of 2014's midterm elections, in response to a Wall Street Journal editorial written by Karl Rove - founder of what's described as the "dark money duo," Crossroads and Crossroads GPS Super PACS - with a massive () super PAC infusion of $19.9 million in support of Republican candidates, ( arming them with even more public platforms from which to attack Obama's presidency and any Democrats associated with his alleged "failures" (economic stimulus, Affordable Care Act, bank bailouts, Dow Jones, GDP growth, consumer confidence et al, all of which are measurable successes - including Dodd-Frank, which was also working. And all of which are demonstrably better for us commoners. Instead, enough voters bought these twisted allegations during the last elections to award s with a Senate majority and a larger House majority. Brace yourselves.
Is all of this consistent with our founding principles?
Are we the America that stands ready to launch millions of immigrants back to poverty, whether they were born here or not, with no opportunity for documentation, simultaneously shooting ourselves in the foot by removing millions of potential low-end workers who are taking the jobs that us Americans don't want? Is this our America?
Are we the country represented by Police Officers like Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo and too many others, who have revealed the small segment of bad cops across the land who, through behavior that demonstrates not only an utter lack of professionalism and violation of their own codes, but an erosion of the values we once stood for, and the very reason they were hired in the first place? Are we the legal system that allows these cops to get away with murder? Or are we going to be the nation finally dedicated to better police training, and serious reform, who will no longer demonstrate the kind of discrimination we have tolerated much too long already?
Are we the nation that will follow the lead of the peaceful protesters, reconsider our values and trumpet a new civil-rights era? Will newly-empowered Republicans support such a thing?
Who are we?
Are we the nation that will finally consider a few, constitutionally-consistent regulations that will at least initiate some demonstration of our willingness to attack the obscene number of deaths by guns in the US - by geometric proportions the most in the entire world? Or are we the America where, according to a recent Pew Poll, for the first time in two decades, more of us actually want the opportunity to own guns than support any regulations on gun ownership? Don't they know that () having a gun in the household increases their risk of violent deaths) by firearms?
We are warping into a nation whose very actions are corrupting our soul.
Can we begin to recover what's right, some sense of dignity, of fairness? Of the values we pretend to stand for but are quickly eroding? How? By shining a light on the facts. By embracing the truth, instead of allowing ourselves to be duped by these self-appointed thought leaders, armed with self-serving, and selfish, agendas. By standing our country in front of the mirror of ethics, and beginning, again, to reflect them.
Wake up America.
At the time of her Supreme Court confirmation, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg lamented, "We are destroying the United States' reputation in the world as a beacon of democracy, and we should go back to the way it was, and the way it should be.
No wonder congress's approval rating is at an all-time low. They are denying the truths that surround them. They repeatedly claim that "the American people have spoken," and yet they aren't even listening.
We are fooling only ourselves, and we are at a pivotal moment in our country's history. Will we begin to heal the nation's wounds that so many scabs have been torn from lately, or will we march on to the different drummer, the one that is luring us into moral decay and deceiving us into believing we are good, and just?
The truth will set us free. And put us on the path back to the America we once were, and can be again.
22 December 2014
Croton on Hudson, NY