Sunday, February 7, 2010

Examining Just Why, Exactly, Sarah Palin is Electrifying

From the years 1932 until roughly 1964, citizens of the U.S.A. felt positive about their Federal government, and for the most part they invested trust in their elected leaders. But this was only a brief anomaly in the long history of our country, and it ended with Watergate and the Vietnam War before it could take hold and flourish. For most of our national history, the opposite sentiment toward Washington has prevailed and from the earliest years of our Republic, Americans historically viewed their government with suspicion, and even outright contempt. So I guess you could say that the Tea Party movement is really a throwback to another time. What’s new is the emergence of Sarah Palin.

Given this high percentage “anti-government” sentiment, it’s surprising that Sarah Palin hasn’t gained more traction with her message of suspicion and distrust of Washington. Recent polls put her disapproval rating at 55%, with fully 71% of Americans saying that she is unqualified to be the next President. Perhaps the reason for this can be found in the recent Tea Party convention in Nashville.

Never, in my recent memory, has so much adulation and applause been given to such simple utterances about simple-minded solutions to galactically unsolvable problems. Evidently, to be in lockstep with the Tea Party, one needs to believe that a speaker is “electrifying” and “galvanizing” when they observe that the United States Government spends too much, by borrowing too much, in order to deliver too little in the way of problem solutions. Knowing this, Sarah Palin is able to rally her troops by overstating the obvious about Washington. Okay, now we know that the Tea Party “gets it” — the Federal Government is inefficient, and generally doesn’t work as well as it did in the past. The thing is, mainstream Democrats and Republicans “get it” too. The only difference is, Republicans and Dems don’t feel that such self-evident truths are “electrifying.”

My politics are, admittedly, schizophrenic. My objection to Bill Clinton molded me into a rabid Conservative, then eight years of George W. Bush transformed me into a flaming Liberal. And after a year of Barack Obama, I’m now a dejected cynic who believes that America is basically ungovernable, and that even an outwardly decent and intellectual person in the Presidency can have very little positive effect on the problems that face the country today. Sarah Palin, we are told by the Tea Party members, should be elected as our next Chief Executive because she shares a certain folksy commonality with the average person. To this I reply, “Not so fast.” My advice is to go out into the street and talk to a lot of common, average Americans, and then ask yourself if you want your grandchildren to inherit a world that is shaped by the common, average American.

For the record, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and all the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were considered to be aristocratic at that time, and there wasn’t a single man among them who would have qualified today as a common average American. I suspect that none of these founding fathers of our country would fare very well in today’s modern Tea Party, and as the Tea Party goes, so goes Sarah Palin.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Retrospective Look at 2012

Looking back, it seems that nobody saw the end coming in the way that it actually happened. Armageddon was supposed to be the final apocalyptic battle between good and evil, playing out like World War Two with Satan in the role of Hitler and Jesus in the role of Ike Eisenhower. The problem was that good and evil were concepts that had become increasingly hard to recognize and define, so that when Armageddon finally played itself out, the evil wasn’t to be found in any kind of Satanic icon, and Jesus was certainly no Eisenhower.

When December 12, 2012 finally arrived (yes, the Mayans had called it correctly), life in America was so complex that people couldn’t even do the basics without institutional support. It started at birth. Babies (half of whom were born out of wedlock) were torn from their mothers and stashed in soulless Munchkin warehouses euphemistically called, “day care centers.” Even those babies with fathers were subjected to the fate of “day care” lest their inconvenient little daytime lives might interfere with total feminine fulfillment. American’s basic nutrition came to them like rat feed funneled into a maze— cascading down imperfectly-regulated, convoluted agra-production chains to be piled high on their ample plates by competing fat-glutting smorgasbords. American’s very procreation was now scrutinized and dramatized and publicized and manipulated and pharmaceutically enhanced against a backdrop of debate about whether two sexes might be one too many. Daily individual health was maintained with miraculous tiny tablets supplied by pharmaceutical researchers, castigated for their unmitigated gall and audacity to charge money for these live saving miracles. Half of Americans were too fat to trek, so they moved from place to place in SUV’s and airplanes, and then they screamed to the high heavens when their conveyances occasionally rolled over or fell from the sky. Americans wanted to be safe. They needed to be safe. They demanded to be safe. Just as long as it was someone else’s job to make them safe. And those fifty-odd-percent of the people in the government who weren’t totally incompetent were expected to baby-sit all this mess. A sixth of the planet wanted America to just disappear from the face of the earth, and Americans wondered if that was gonna cut into their shopping.

Backing up this complex dysfunctional madness was the U.S. Military, with more armament than the rest of the world’s combined military firepower. The fundamentalist Christians absolutely loved this heavily armed institutional protector, their love no doubt driven by the belief that Satan would come against this nation leading an invading army of his own. In the tenth year of the Iraq and Afghan war, Christians actually succeeded in having bible verses engraved into the steel of the personal automatic weapons that were supplied to the Pentagon (this truly is happening). Implied in all of this was the basic belief that the U.S.A. was the force of good on the earth, and that when Jesus finally made his long-awaited second coming, he would be wearing the garb of a high ranking U.S. Military officer.

But Jesus and Satan were both “no-shows” when the end finally came. The force of evil, whether real or imagined, was contained in the very complexity of the culture that had evolved in the 400 years since the Pilgrims had arrived. On this tiny planet, natural resources had diminished while the human population had tripled in just fifty years, so that across the face of the earth, human comfort and well being had become a zero sum game. America was despised because America had it all. Those last three al-Qaeda attacks in 2012 were partly a result of this situation. By themselves, the small scale al-Qaeda attacks should have been insignificant, nothing more than three flea bites on a 200 pound dog, but the attacks disrupted both the complexity of American life as well as the sense of national security. America desperately needed its complexity and the sense of safety, otherwise what was the use of pouring half a trillion dollars each year into the Pentagon?

And so the U.S.A. turned on itself. With a true statistical unemployment rate of 22% and a housing market in its seventh year of depression, and with the war in Afghanistan promising to go on forever, waged by a Pentagon that was now widely recognized as nothing but a useless sinkhole for money, Americans, correctly, came to see the U.S. government, not as a protector, but as an enemy of all but the wealthy and the powerful. When the killing started, the rest of the world was happy to sit on the sidelines and watch the images that came from a quarter of a billion tiny cell phone cameras.

After that day of Armageddon in 2012, the Christian fundamentalists changed their interpretation of the Book of Revelations. Since nobody was seen flying naked up into the sky that day, they had to recalibrate their notion of the Rapture. When the killing was taking place, the fundamentalists handled themselves extremely well owing to their inordinately high incidence of private gun ownership coupled with traditional conservative values that included frequent NRA target practice and the heavy duty stockpiling of ammunition. In this so called “preparedness” they now look back and see the hand of Jesus and the blessing of the Lord at work. But to those around the world who watched this from afar, it’s impossible to say which was the army of good, and which was the army of evil.