I want to think of us as people who have the capacity and desire to do the right thing, but we are all too often led astray by short-sighted, corporatist leaders.
That view no doubt comes from living through the era of the Vietnam War. Many of us watched in horror as LBJ and then Richard Nixon unleashed new technological horrors like napalm against the innocent people of Vietnam. Our own American soldiers on the ground inevitably lost their moral compass, making incidents such as My Lai inevitable. Racism persisted and our cities went up in flame during more than one long hot summer.
Yet, at the same time, students took to the streets demanding peace and social justice. Other young people sparked a flowering art and music unlike anything we have seen since.
In the decades since, the hope was that slowly but surely we would make progress and move toward the light, away from the darkness.
Then this week we see:
- BIG MONEY TALKS – Glenn Beck made $32 million last year and you didn’t
- CORPORATE COWARDS – Greedy owners of the Big Branch mine preferred to pay fines rather than protect the lives of their miners. They are too cowardly to appear on camera to explain why at least 25 hard-working West Virginia miners had to die an awful death, and we have a media too timid to demand that they do.
- COLD-HEARTED BIGOTS – Eighteen-year-old Constance McMillen of Mississippi just wanted to attend her senior prom. But because her date was also female, the school canceled the event. At first, I was heartened to see that the school was relented and reinstated the prom. Now we learn that school officials, parents and students all colluded to hold a secret prom elsewhere. Ms. McMillen was meanwhile sent to a “fake” prom organized for her and her date, as well as two students with learning disabilities. The cruelty of the plan, and the apparent willingness of everyone in the community to mislead her, borders on insane and unbelievable.
- SHOOTING TO KILL OUR OWN – Our supposedly leftist president has now issued orders to kill Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born citizen. As Glen Greenwald of Salon writes, “No due process is accorded. No charges or trials are necessary. No evidence is offered, nor any opportunity for him to deny these accusations (which he has done vehemently through his family).” Obama has also escalated the use of drones – the death-from-above unmanned killing machines whose use may well constitute a war crime.
- CIVIL WAR REDUX – Newly elected Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell, touted by the media as a moderate compared to the Tea Partiers, reinstated Confederate History Month. He initially ignored any reference to slavery, apparently since that would conflict with his “Gone with the Wind” version of life in the Old South. He has since amended his proclamation, but the glorification of the confederacy in the south, the secessionist rhetoric of Governor Rick Perry in Texas and the rise of the militias in the Midwest should scare us all.
So, yes, like the Tea Party rallying cry, I, too, want my country back. I want it back from the bigots and the bullies and the ill-informed. I don’t want to admit that the people who would savage a young girl as they did in Mississippi are my fellow Americans. I want to believe people like that wouldn’t find a home here.
These are perilous times. High unemployment. Crumbling schools. Climate change. Radio airwaves dominated by incendiary lies trumpeted by highly paid white males who will be able to retreat behind the walls of their gated communities if the shitstorm they are provoking is unleashed.
Give me the flute-playing hippies, the young couples raising their family and growing their own food on a commune, the environmentalists cleaning up a stream. Let me live among gentle, kind and caring people who find joy in reading, learning and creating.
Progress means moving forward, but I see too many signs that we are sliding backward. It is time for the good people to stop watching the spectacle and stand up for the values of caring and concern.