Living the End of Democracy

On every front imaginable, the signs are clear that American democracy is a democracy in name only. It's now an oligarchy. The vote functions as a camouflage for policies and actions taken in the name of a ruling elite that openly plots the subversion of the election process while around the world, the Americas agents, unbeknownst to their so-called citizen constituents, plot the continuation of empire. Even five years ago it would have been unimaginable, the flood of abuses being visited on the carcass of American democracy even as it gives up its last life's breath.

As an ordinary citizen with progressive ideals, I'm aghast and baffled.

I'm aghast at the sheer quantity of challenges to the concepts that we once held sacred: Constitutional rights including the right to habeas corpus and the implied right of privacy, the value of open and free elections, Freedom of Information, accountability of the President, our representatives in Congress, and officials at all levels of government... the pursuit of peace and happiness. Each has been traduced a dozen ways in just the last decade, beginning mendaciously during the Bush years and accelerating ferociously during the Obama-Tea Party Era. Our leaders betray the common man and woman to serve the rich and their own self-interests.

I'm baffled by the resulting appeals that reach me by the Internet every day, sometimes every hour, seeking help to avert this crisis, defeat this scheme, and restore this right stolen away. Last night, Congress traded away the nation's well being and the last remaining vestiges of fairness in the way we are taxed and served by passing Obama's "compromise" -- read: surrender -- on the issue of enriching the rich and impoverishing the rest of us. This morning's email flurry is full of doubt and doom and pitches for contributions that I can no longer make, not being wealthy myself.

The press seems not to be very effective as a governor of these assaults. The mainstream press has become a podium for the rich and the powerful, prescribing what is important for us to know and what is not, what cultural tropes are appropriate and which are no longer "the trend." It's easy to focus on Fox News, but its overt promotion of power is actually more welcome than the mass of media that subvert Americans' awareness of the world in which they live, locally and globally, on a regular basis undetected for their generality of purpose: distraction. The outlaw press, the critical journals, blogs, and radio do what they can to enlighten but more often than not they are responding to the mainstream press, to the obvious assaults on democracy -- the gambits and feints designed to deceive us about the real stories going on -- and not the more pernicious plotting to undermine the Republic.

One exception occurred in October of this year when The New York Times reported on the regular meetings of right-wing billionaires who plot -- yearly? monthly? weekly? daily? -- how they will affect Supreme Court decisions (consulting with friendly Justices), elections, foreign policies, and the general State of the Union. George Soros is a lonely outlier, not welcome. The rest of the very rich practice their power-mongering privately while they publicly engage in overseas philanthropy or watching their investments grow. Amazingly, they still haven't the courage to come out and claim the throne, so much do they fear public reaction.

Of that there's not much, so far. Squawking on the left, shrilling on the right. It's only now sinking in among the common people that American democracy has become a farce, a joke -- that it has made us feared, not loved, internationally; and that it is a source of constant abuse against working people, the poor, and anyone else who cannot wield a fisftull of dollars in his or her own defense or the defense of others. Yet we know that political reform is dead and revolution impossible. The sheer array of destructive devices our nation has devised to conquer the world could in a moment be turned by leaders frightened of their own citizenry on that citizenry in a display of official terrorism the likes of which the world has never known. The possibility is too plausible for us even to contemplate. Who wants to spend the rest of his or her life in solitary in Guantanamo? Or have his peaceful American neighborhood savaged, burnt to the ground, in a display of power intended this time for us? We live with the lie of our freedom even while our weaponry imprisons us.

How is one to respond on a day to day basis to living the lie of democracy? It obviously isn't easy. Families are breaking asunder even while the press, even while the media blasts us with the annual fury of Christmas cheer, ritualized music, and consumerism. The number of starving children in America is at historic highs. Our soldiers overseas are girding for perpetual war; those that return after their service come home battered and often broken. We seek solace in prescription drugs, child abuse, gangs, vacation cruises, anything that relieves the numbing monotony of being oppressed. The possibility of a true party of the people seems ever more remote.

And there I must leave it. I haven't a solution other than to watch with the rest as our wheezy, oppressive empire trundles its way into an uncertain future. The Chinese are on the rise; they virtually own us, except that we possess a nuclear arsenal and there are many among us eager to reach The End, which breeds caution overseas. The climate is irrevocably going to wreak havoc on the world, a situation we daily encourage through our profligate lifestyles built on petroleum and waste, and for which we are totally unprepared -- and unpreparing. It is as if we imagined Hell and then worked for its realization in our time, all at once, political and environmental chaos masked by the imposition of a false and fragile order. Life in American has become daunting and depressing.

I make my coffee, I ponder my email, I do my work. I try to make a positive difference in the world. So do most of us. Sadly, however, most of us no longer run America.