“Right here, right now, there is no other place I wanna be… watching the world wake up from history.” — Jesus Jones
As I write this in November 2011, many in this country are standing up and protesting the injustices, imbalances and manipulations that have made life hell for so many. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has spread to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and smaller cities, as well as numerous college campuses. Most recently, a viral video shows police at U.C. Davis calmly pepper-spraying nonviolent student protesters in the face as they sat, linking arms, across a sidewalk. Today, soon after the incident, U.C. Davis students protesters were back protesting, and I have a feeling they won’t be gone any time soon.
The “Arab spring” saw successful uprisings with regime changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. The anti-government forces in Syria seem to be just getting started. Mind you, this is all in the face of the Iranian and the Chinese governments’ successful suppressions of mass demonstrations in their countries by massacring peaceful protesters.
We gringos kind of started it, way back when. The United States of America was the first modern nation to successfully revolt against an imperialist monarchy (England) and establish a more or less democratic form of government “Of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
Unfortunately, the populist sentiment expressed by Lincoln at his Gettysburg address has been usurped by a loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires, so we now have government of the very rich, by the very rich, and for the very rich. Increasingly, large banks, powerful corporations, and wealthy individuals control the media, the means of production, the halls of government and our justice system. Conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Cato Institute — all funded mainly by wealthy right-wingers — produce a steady stream of propaganda and skewed data that feed conservative talking points and, in fact, shape much of government policy — along with the armies of lobbyists working for moneyed interests.
After hopeful signs of progress for the nation and the world during the Clinton years (cuts in military spending, cuts in the deficit, robust economic growth, efforts to create national health insurance), I was appalled during the first decade of this millennium to watch as our nation bowed to the George W. Bush administration and — as far as I’m concerned — took it in the ass. Aside from eggs and tomatoes thrown at Bush’s motorcade to the White House, and a few other sporadic protests, it seems that our nation, generally speaking, took the rape of the Bush years lying down.
OK, maybe “rape” is too crude a word. Maybe it was more of a… seduction? We thought W. Bush was cute, didn’t we? He seemed like the kind of guy we’d like to have a beer with, didn’t he? What a charmer.
In any case, we had a White House staff composed largely of right-wing think-tankers, a national dialogue dominated by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, airwaves controlled by big corporations like Clear Channel, and our brains soothed by a heady mix of antidepressants, tranquilizers, sleep aids, and mood stabilizers.
Meanwhile, the “W” presidency heaped outrages one on another: tax cuts for the very rich; subsidies to fossil fuel companies; two wars overseas; a gutting of environmental protections; unfunded mandates in public education; and continued deregulation of the financial sector, which of course brought on the mess we’re in today.
Where was the widespread public outcry? Where was the outrage? Why didn’t more people raise a fuss? Well, along with right-wing religion, I think that prescription drugs were key to sedating our nation. According to an article from a respected website with news about psychiatry, “Psych Central” (www.psychcentral.com), “Psychiatric drug prescriptions have soared amongst Americans, with 73 percent more adults and 50 percent more children using such drugs in 2006 compared to a decade earlier. Seniors citizen prescriptions have doubled in the same time period.”
The prevailing attitude during the “W” years seemed to be, “We’re at war! Just shut up and support the president.” But my friends, THAT president (George W. Bush) and his administration took our country for a ride, got us drunk, gave us some nice drugs, and drove us into a ditch.
It is also true that a lot of Americans were seduced by greed, believing the motto, “Rising water lifts all boats.” Many thought that if they just went along with the rich folks, they’d get rich, too. Well, history and personal experience seem to suggest that, despite notable exceptions, rich folks don’t like to share. What’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours will soon be, too.
My friends, our country has been seduced, and — I’ll say it — date-raped by billionaires. But I am also glad to report that we seem to be finally waking up. Witness, beside the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, the recent Ohio elections that reversed anti-union legislation; the recent Mississippi elections that rejected a bill establishing that life begins at conception; poll numbers showing trouble for the Republicans and the Tea Party in Congress; and disarray among contenders to be the Republican presidential candidate in 2012, who look more and more like a Punch and Judy show, except for Mitt Romney, who looks more and more like a mediocre impersonation of Ronald Reagan (see “Mitt Romney explains himself” on this blog).
It’s heartening to see people of this country wake up. I think it’s about time.