Has America turned a corner?
“Our decaying corporate regime has strutted in Portland, Oakland and New York with their baton-wielding cops into a fool’s paradise. They think they can clean up “the mess”— always employing the language of personal hygiene and public security — by making us disappear. … Get back into your cages, they are telling us. Return to watching the lies, absurdities, trivia and celebrity gossip we feed you in 24-hour cycles on television. Invest your emotional energy in the vast system of popular entertainment. Run up your credit card debt. Pay your loans. Be thankful for the scraps we toss.”
We can and should debate whether Hedges’ strong words are justified. But debating is not what the Ed Burhops of this world are interested in. Here’s the comment Ed posted on my Facebook page: “This is what morons look like…..come on get serious.”
I single out Ed Burhop by name because he asked for it; writing publicly implies preparedness to take responsibility for one’s words and their consequences. I invited him to do just that, by calling him out:
“Ed, you might disagree with me (and tens of millions of other Americans), but your comment is just a gratuitous personal insult – not so much to me as to the many, many thousands of people who have been camping out the last two months because they care deeply about the future of our society. If that’s all you have to say, don’t post on my wall. On the other hand, if you have something intelligent and/or constructive to say, please do.”
I haven’t heard from Ed since then, which is disappointing albeit not surprising. Ed is a longtime good friend of my brother’s, and in person he’s a nice guy. He comes to mind whenever I try to believe that friendship should trump politics. But sometimes it shouldn’t. Personal loyalties notwithstanding, indulging in drive-by rhetoric in today’s climate is both hateful and unhelpful. Is Ed – I single him out, but there are many like him – interested in doing something useful, or simply in bullying and shutting up the rest of us?
Last week I quoted Dorli Rainey, the 84-year-old woman who gave a defiant interview to Keith Olbermann after being pepper sprayed by Seattle police. “I remember Goebbels,” she told him. A friend who read my article praised me for my “point about paying heed to Dorli Rainey … When the last of the Holocaust survivors is gone, the deniers will come out of their holes.” That’s a good point, but it’s not the point Ms. Rainey made. Of course we should remember the Holocaust. But Ms. Rainey was talking not about the Holocaust, but about the domestic repression and official lying for which Joseph Goebbels, as Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, was responsible. If you listen to her full interview with Olbermann, which I highly recommend, you’ll hear her talking not about the killing of Jews but about how non-Jewish Germans allowed themselves to be lied to.
The uncomfortable truth is that foreign war, persecution of unpopular minorities – Jews in Germany then, Muslims in America now – and the repression of mainstream society go hand in hand, in any country that lets itself slide down the slippery slope. The questions for Americans today are how far down the slope we’ve slipped, and whether we can still scramble back up it. In the decade-plus since 9/11 – more accurately, since the national trauma of the disputed 2000 election – a lot of water has gone under the bridge. Each time we let something slide without taking honest and self-critical stock of our national situation, it becomes harder to retrieve the self-confident middle-class America we still vaguely remember from the now-distant late 20th century.
It’s probably already too late to go back, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost. We’re still alive together on this planet, and we still have choices to make. For my part, I want to live in a decent country and a decent world, and one thing I know is that there’s no hope of these if we don’t struggle and, if necessary, fight for them. If we do struggle and fight, a decent society just might be possible.
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