Reinventing America: A return to thinking
By Gary Simon
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jun 13, 2008, 00:12
For the last five years the Bush administration has postured
itself as the apocalyptic crusader of Iraqi freedoms. In reality, its true
purpose from the outset has been the creation of mayhem in the Mideast, the
strengthened distribution of corporate power, particularly that of the Carlyle
elite and last, Machiavellian ownership of Iraqi oil leases and contracts
(money that was initially to go back into the rebuilding of Iraq, remember?).
Under the guise of transforming the Middle East �through the
spread of democracy,� the Cheney/Bush cartel has amassed one of the most greedy
treasures of oil and power in recent memory.
This could only have been accomplished, however, by
keeping their affairs out of reach of everyday, working citizens. Incredibly,
Americans have been unwilling to throw up any real interference even when this
administration went about the business of reassuring the rest of the world in
the rightness of its mission. Here at home, there continues to be a shared
laissez faire attitude on the part of many as our constitutional protections
are still meddled and tampered with.
How this war of shock and awe could have been executed and
set in motion with the country�s approval is not difficult to understand when
one accepts the premise that the United States is not a very enlightened
One man, with a legion of unscrupulous power brokers
stretching from one end of the globe to the other, has twice spoken to this
nation in unpolished, twisted prose that would make any educated mind cringe.
The language adopted, a mixture of disjointed sentences and jumbled syntax, was
crafted, whether intentional or not, to shut down rational discussion and
debate. Its cartloads of clich�d patriotism were calculated to tap into the
common mind and keep the ranks of the Right in line. Seven years later the
language of this president has only worsened and his rambling thoughts have
further eroded into deeper lies that only the most devoted can bear. For those
who still believe in knowledge and truth, the Bush administration has turned
good into evil, civility into hate and law into chaos.
Such shocking events can occur when key elements are in place,
like a democratic meltdown that no longer supports a system of checks and
balances. This meltdown can easily worsen when complete power (a major fear of
our founding fathers, particularly Jefferson) is handed to a simple Texan whose
sole crusade since pilfering the presidency has been to amass wealth and power.
The ultimate game naturally is to weaken democracy and keep Americans and other
viable nations politically removed, intellectually lethargic, and economically
depressed. Once the Corporate Combine succeeds in sealing these
initial steps, it can then go about completing its business of the control and
seizure of other nations.
In short, unless one has been asleep and has not noticed,
the shape and scope of American democracy has undergone some serious setbacks.
To the more awakened, it has been beaten and virtually swept under the rug.
Under Bush II our political system has amounted to nothing more than a
puritanical farce. During his tenure, this president has unraveled the constitution,
maintained and masterfully landlocked an unenlightened proletariat on the
sidelines, and masterminded a coup without the knowledge or consent of much of
the voting public. His callous disregard for law has been nothing less than the
ugly actions of greedy hands in the cookie jar with the cautionary consent of
At one time there might have been zero tolerance for such
totalitarian behavior. But a listless public sold a bill of goods under the
guise of tens of thousands of waving flags, has been anesthetized. This is the
sort of theft against which any rational person should rebel. I�ve been
conscious of this since I first sensed that a Texas governor with a
dishonorable environmental record and a zeal for capital punishment could actually
land the job of national leader.
Given this scenario, an illegal war and corruption in the
highest offices of the land, the problem at hand is the same one that
challenged me academically during the Vietnam years, which is, the nature of my
responsibility toward a government whose positions I find difficult to
maintain. When governments abuse the power to which they�re entrusted and
offenders go unpunished to continue their evil-doings, I�m still of that group
who demands the system be fixed. Now if I were a youth, I�d say, confidently,
stomp the perpetrators out. But those were easier times, the sixties, with
possibly easier solutions. Today, I go with the maxim, �Think.� It worked once
in ancient days (Athens); it can work again in these advanced times, but in
this next go-around we need to be intellectually astute and more proactive.
In fact, this is precisely where everyone should be looking
-- the future. For the present, and with a quasi-distant public, there is much
to overcome when forward-thinking ideas are for the most part out of the
mainstream. The likelihood of such ideas seeping into the popular consciousness
at this juncture is a narrow leap at best, particularly when the only
progressive bleeps being uttered are in scattered liberal, online journals read
by liberal online readers. How to bring progressive thought and common
indifference to the table and then have them joined in a true sense of purpose
is obviously the chore at hand.
Every person should be allowed the privilege to think without
party hacks and politicians distracting them from that right. I grew up in a
time when not all public officials disguised their criminal acts in flag-draped
lapels or resorted to puerile catch phrases to capture my patriotism. During
the '60s we still had a press that would scoff at the lunacy this nation
currently accepts as sanity.
What child�s mind, unless he were writing for comics, could
invent such outlandish terms as �weapons of mass destruction,� �axis of evil,�
�homeland security� and "intelligent design?� In 2001, more than just
Democrats were aghast at the juvenile syntax emanating from the White House.
With quotes like, "We hold dear what our Declaration of Independence says,
that all have got uninalienable rights, endowed by a Creator,� I felt that
Chauncey the Gardener had come to life, and that Peter Sellers, in reincarnated
fashion, had committed a coup d�etat in my own once semi-literate country. If I
wasn�t fretting over the creeping totalitarianism that was beginning to slip
into our laws, I was noting that no other contemporary examples of black humor
could match the ongoing performances of G.W. himself.
I never envisioned that any American government could be as
calculating and shameless in trashing constitutional and environmental law as
this one is. Nor did I expect to live through an era where the possibility of
dictatorship could even begin to surface, no less be joked about by the chief
I always assumed I would be allowed to think and live within
a safe environment. I also took for granted that everyone would share my
expectations, but I see that isn�t so. Thinking for oneself in America has now
become like anything else that requires nurturing and caring: a threatened
commodity. The tragedy here isn�t just that we don�t insist upon thinking for
ourselves. It�s that we don�t comprehend what we sacrifice when we fail to
At present, we�re in a historical crisis with language and
thinking in jeopardy. We also have a body of law in disarray. We�ve lost habeas
corpus and our right to privacy. We�ve permitted energy policy to take place
behind closed doors and have remained hushed as scientific papers on major
global matters are censored and rewritten. We�ve watched silently as a vice
president places himself outside of the executive branch and secretly profits
from war coffers, an action Harry Truman declared a high crime. We�ve witnessed
together inalienable protections become scrapped and buried and eventually
What actually happens when a people get to this point, when
their country seeks to cause chaos in the world and acts more like a fascist
regime than a democracy? Even with our men and women sacrificing their lives
overseas, mortgages foreclosing, gasoline prices spiking to criminal levels, and
an economy and deficit out of control, there are no permanent signs of civil
unrest. Instead, we the people rest. When our government refuses to pursue or
punish those who attacked us on 9/11, we the people rest. When our country
overturns international law and permits corporations to overrun and profit
handsomely from an already besieged country, we continue to rest. What happens
when a once republican nation plunders another state so its leaders can control
the world�s oil markets? We the people rest.
These are monumental issues that will certainly not be fixed
any time soon. The offenders in this national debacle are politicians refusing
to oversee and/or punish other politicians. There is no clearer example of
greed run amok than in this Bush administration. Politicians live off the lives
of other people who allow them to do bad things every day. The unfortunate,
timeless question is why -- why the extent of such scandalous greed and then as
a follow-up: when will the people begin to think and hold the guilty liable?
The problem is part of the solution that calls for the individual to command a
voice and presence for change. Without we the people stepping forward to demand
accountability for a healthier government, all future congresses will remain mired
in the same scandalous ways.
This umbrella of corruption, payoffs, deals and deceit
cannot be fixed immediately, but possibilities do exist. Look at education.
Here�s a system that believes it�s on track and that improvements are taking
place when in fact just the opposite is occurring.
Our history books have never taught the real truth
about this country�s past and its exploitation of other people, including its
youth are neither proficient in grammar nor science and most are never taught
to speak a second language. The classics are skimmed over and some may finally
get to read Shakespeare in college. Too many still don�t recognize the name
Churchill. Even more shocking are the number of high school students who can�t
locate France on a map. For the most part instead of digesting classic novels
or inventive theories, college students delve into cliff notes in student
unions and when they become real grownups forego Twain and Keynes for their
morning coffee and television news. So goes their education; so goes the world.
There was a time fewer than 200 years ago when classics were
read and studied in their original language. Math and science were also
discussed openly among both the privileged and laboring classes, including
women. It wasn�t terribly uncommon for people, from farmers to merchants, to
speak and read two and three languages and to hold their own in small town
lyceums where subjects including physics, architecture, biology, philosophy and
modern novels were the evening�s entertainment.
At that time the east coast, particularly Boston, was
raising the bar in terms of culture and encouraging the rest of the country to
do the same. For a short period we had our Emerson and Thoreau who encouraged
audiences to begin living life �on their own terms� and not to copy Europe.
This was our time to put down new roots and our moment to celebrate the
beginning of a possible American Renaissance.
We had Margaret Fuller at Brook Farm experimenting in
communal living, Walt Whitman in Manhattan celebrating the human soul and
Bronson Alcott striving to inculcate high ideals in education. If ever there
was to be an American Enlightenment, this could have been our time. Yet, with
the Civil War obliterating Emerson�s call for self-reliance and then Reconstruction,
America took its eye off the rebirth of the individual and turned to a
different era, one that would set aside the commemoration of spiritual richness
and instead yield to the riches of a gilded Industrial Age.
That was more than 150 years ago and it doesn�t appear we�re
going to recapture the fervor of those master Concordians any time soon. Even
in our early history our forefathers were avid consumers cutting large swathes
of land through the countryside, toppling mountain tops, polluting waterways,
and covering the landscape with tracks, telegraph lines and unsightly poles.
With the railroad and automobile came small towns followed by larger
communities and then swarming cities. It�s regrettable we didn�t take more from
the Romantics and Realists and a little bit less from the captains of industry.
The results are what we see today: an America out of harmony with its own
But we�re builders, that we are. We�ve built schools and
colleges; unfortunately, many of our kids can�t read when they enter the
universities. We�ve erected skyscrapers and gilded office structures, but we
still run cars with oil and fail to establish environmentally safe
alternatives. We�ve toppled redwoods to make more space so we can dispose of
trash instead of educating the public about recycling. We have massive
communication systems and endless sources for news and information. We also
have a government that dictates the framework of that news.
We have freedoms to which we�re entitled by the Constitution
but which are altered and/or removed without our consent. We have politically
appointed judges and Supreme Court members who radically abuse the
responsibilities they�re sworn to uphold. We have corporations run by very rich
individuals whose primary purpose is to be even more wealthy and powerful. We
have the haves getting more and the have-nots sacrificing the most, including
their pocketbooks and the welfare of their households.
Looking back, there was always the hope that greed and
enlightenment could one day share the same table and work out their
differences. But it appears that the momentum has severely shifted and will
remain, at least for now, on the side of industry. Governments can shut us out
and do as they please as long as the electorate is fragmented and uninvolved.
G.W. Bush can go into Iraq for its oil and Americans are willing to sacrifice
their lives as they refuse to think and ask themselves, �Why am we in Iraq?
What is the intent and purpose of this war? What is its resolution?�
If every American actually stayed with the story, if every
American followed the goings-on of lobbyists, unaccounted money and contracts,
illegal use of the military, Halliburton, big-time war salaries, the purchasing
and selling of goods, weapons and other articles with taxpayer dollars, we
might ask more of our congressional representatives and of ourselves. If we had
the inclination to know, the desire to distinguish between war agenda and
corporate takeover, if we had the wherewithal to understand unaccounted spending
for the benefit of a few and the criminality of displacing millions of helpless
people, we might be moved to take some action.
Perhaps if we thought in terms of justice, not only for
others, but for ourselves, if we considered the preservation of freedom here
and abroad and were actually willing to recognize the dangers of a government
that intervenes in democracies and rewrites law, that lies and refuses to
change its discourse even when caught in its lies, then perhaps we would be a
better and more enlightened society.
Perhaps if we asked ourselves why this same government that
is operated and fueled by corporate moguls refuses to put a cog or two in the
wheels of global warming, we might be led to think about our own environment
and question the tearing down of trees, the erection of ceaseless shopping
centers, and the disarray of our parks. How immensely pleasing would it be if
recycling came into vogue and we actually questioned where all our junk was
being dumped and questioned even harder the storage of radioactive waste from
nuclear power plants. We might then begin to push harder for preservation of
plants and animals on the verge of extinction and recognize the enormity of our
error in allowing their disappearance.
this means we become a thinking nation that actually puts words into action. If
we used the same energy in protecting our freedoms that we do our guns, we
would be taking the first steps towards reinventing ourselves -- a nation of
alternative natural resources and not of oil. It�s true that a nation intent
upon making gains and higher strides with the right tools and resources may
have to give up some of its old riches. But, if the new treasures are better
infrastructure, an abundant environment and an improved accountability from
business and government alike, we might have the makings of a greener world and
put future Iraqs behind us.
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