Monday, January 25, 2010

Not ready to give up on America

Honestly, I'm at the point where I think America may have had it. Eight years of Bush were bad enough, of course, but this past week witnessed further decline.

I'm not sure if America has a hope in hell, as they say, of recovering.

I'm not sure if the point of no return has been reached. But if it hasn't yet, we're close to it.

Some would argue that America "jumped the shark" a long, long time ago, and that may very well be true.

I have held out hope, remaining at least somewhat optimistic, if also realistic, but I'm so filled with anger and frustration now. Maybe my judgment has been clouded, but maybe it's been liberated.

America is, or at least seems to be, in irreversible decline. Along the way, though, it is passing into madness.

But it is not because of Barack Obama, who, while not perfect, ushered in what was thought to be and what could have been a period of renewed hope and change and who has actually had a fairly successful first year in office.

No, it is because of the forces arrayed against Obama, against hope, against change.

I speak not of Obama's critics on the left, his constructive critics, those who wish he would go further than he has.

No, I speak of... what do we call it now? Is it still the military-industrial complex? Well, it's something like that and yet something more, a media, political, and corporate establishment that is institutionally organized against the sort of change America needs in order to recover, to reverse it's decline into eventual oblivion.

This past week, the majority-conservative Supreme Court handed American democracy over to corporations who will be allowed to buy and sell power as they see fit. It is no longer democracy, but corporatocracy. The triumph of conservatism over liberalism, of fascism over freedom, may be seen right here.

The American experiment in self-government may very well have come to an end, an abject failure given this utter perversion of the spirit of the American Founding.

In Massachusetts, a charismatic right-wing Republican masquerading as an independent moderate (Scott Brown) defeated a hopelessly inept and arrogant Democratic opponent (Martha Coakley). It was an outcome easily explained by a variety of contributing factors, but it has been spun as a national referendum on Obama and the Democratic Party, on the "liberal" agenda, and on change generally, the Republican narrative coming to dominate the media narrative that in turns dominates the awfully narrow understanding of their country that most Americans seem to have.

And the media have now turned on Obama.

And Democrats themselves have responded to the "special election" in Massachusetts with a mixture of panic and fear. They may even abandon health-care reform, handing Republicans a major victory that would reinforce the Republican/media narrative and further erode support both for the president and for his party.

I retain a trace of optimism. Democrats may come around and pass health-care reform, after all; that is, if they know what's good for them.

And it's not like Republicans have anything in the way of a viable alternative agenda. All they have is the same old set of failed right-wing policies that got America into this mess in the first place. And, in Congress, all they seem to be able to do is oppose and obstruct.

If the polls are to be believed, the American people may be generally unhappy with Obama and generally skeptical about health-care reform (although they tend to support it when they know what it's about, and much of the opposition to the reform bills in Congress comes from those on the left who want there to be more substantive reform, not no reform), as well as about the stimulus package that has pulled the country back from the brink of economic apocalypse.

But Obama is still president and the Democrats still have solid majorities in Congress, and there is still time to do what needs to be done.

The economy, and especially relatively high unemployment, remains a major obstacle (and explains in large part what happened in Massachusetts last week, with Brown successfully capitalizing on, and exploiting for his own political gain, widespread economic uncertainty), but the Democrats could, and should, pass health-care reform and then move on quickly to address the economy, as Obama will likely do with his State of the Union address on Wednesday.

Democrats need to get things done, but they also need to change the narrative. To do that, Obama will have to stop talking up bipartisanship and Democrats will have to stop cowering in fear.

But, even then, is it really possible at this point to reverse the seeming inevitable, to overcome the institutional opposition will not easily be forced to relinquish its grip?

A trace of optimism is all I have, but it's still something, as is the love I feel, and I can feel a heart still beating within the rotting core, far below the diseased and decaying surface, as this country, its glory fading, sinks to ever lower levels of delusion and despair, a decline not even Obama's historic election, as magnificent as that was, has been able to halt.

For all that, the heart beats, the spirit endures, the hope remains.

I'm not yet ready, not quite yet, to give up on America.

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