Monday, November 01, 2004
It may be a good time to think about the future of American politics. Whoever wins tomorrow, the truth is that the animosity and near-violence between the wingnuts and the rest of us will stay.
The great divisions in the United States are very real, and it's hard for me to see how the country can endure them in the long run without a civil war or secession of some parts from the whole. Take me, for example: the basic rights that I want any country to have before I land the Snakepit Inc. within its borders are the very concepts which make a fundamentalist Christian pray for the Apocalypse. And I am not a communist or even a socialist. I'm not especially radical, either.
No, what has happened in the U.S. since the late 1950s is a real radicalization of the right. This, together with the unholy marriage between Big Money and Big Faith is what has been running the country during the last four years, and running it in a way which cares very little about the Constitution or about other long-established ethics or behavioral guidelines. As a consequence, the United States is now mightily hated in the rest of the world, we are deeply in debt to the Chinese while we bow to the gods of free trade and the demons of outsourcing. We have spent enormous sums on getting roughly 80,000 Iraqis killed prematurely, and in the process we have killed over a thousand of our own. All in a country which had as much responsibility for the slaughters of 9/11 as Mexico had for Pearl Harbor.
Nevertheless, there are many Americans who would scream "communist, treason, enemy of America" if they read what I wrote above. For them the important principles are very different, and one of the most important ones is the preservation of the American way of life. This means the preservation of things as they are today in terms of who has money and power, but it means something different in terms of social norms; these must be taken back several centuries in some cases. They hate the killing of children which is how they interpret abortions, and they hate anything that is not explicitly allowed in the Bible. They want a government to reflect these values, and they are not so worried about whether the right people are killed abroad as a revenge for terrorism on our soil.
Ok. I give up. I tried to write a nicely balanced treatise on the views that divide America, but I am no longer able to do so. I swear that I used to be great at this sort of writing: dancing on the fence on the toes of one foot while twirling my manicolored umbrella in the air. But the juice has run out of me; I'm just too worn out by the years of reading what Rush Limbaugh's reality looks like, and I no longer seem to know how to do neutrality.
This is scary. What it certainly means is that the struggle will continue. I hope that someone in the media will get courageous enough to start talking in a conciliatory way. Even if it doesn't sell. We need that desperately if we are going to remain one country.