I am a dissident. This term allows my government to ignore my opinions and also enables the rest of America to discount any or all of my opinions. I am also a “conspiracy theorist”, because I believe that more than one person in my government are colluding together in order to dupe the American people to believe things that are not true. Therefore, I am of no consequence. Anything I say can be attributed to the “lunatic fringe”. I have been framed, that is, I have been relegated to the sidelines of any debate of consequence. I have been neatly packaged and categorized so that my opinions have no relevance.
I should be outraged, but the truth is such, that I consider my labeling to be a badge of honor. To be considered otherwise would brand me as a participant in what I consider to be the ultimate betrayal of everything good that this nation has ever stood for.
Let me be frank. I’m not saying for a moment that America was ever a “shining light of democracy” or a nation that was totally pure in deed and actions. Still, at one time, it was the world’s best chance since ancient Athens to create something noble. This nation was once an experiment to build a nation that was “of the people, and for the people”.
Sure, there were those that never subscribed to that quaint notion. In fact, many of the people entrusted to continue this experiment in representative government were in fact, some of the most duplicitous individuals in our nation’s history, but it never seemed to matter because eventually, the nation would right itself and follow the path laid out for us by those that initiated this great experiment. Just as in all of mankind’s many endeavors, nothing about this nation has ever been perfect because perfection doesn’t exist, but still, it was a valiant effort.
Everything in the physical world has a beginning and an end. The more we cherish something, the longer we try to hold on to it. When we lose something we hold especially dear, it is generally recognized that we go through different stages of grief. Probably the most well-known of these might be from Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying.” In it, she identified five stages that a dying patient experiences when informed of their terminal prognosis.
The stages Kubler-Ross identified are:
* Denial (this isn’t happening to me!)
* Anger (why is this happening to me?)
* Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
* Depression (I don’t care anymore)
* Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes)
The death of an idea or the death of an ideal can be as hard to deal with as our own death or the death of a loved one. I believe that we are witnessing the death of both; an idea and an ideal. I believe that we are watching the death of America, and the death of what she once enshrined in the values of the Constitution and the values of her people. The nation that was once a beacon of light in a world that at times could be cruel and dark for people living in places where despair was a lifetime event came here to break out of the circumstances they were born into. In America people could reinvent themselves, and in a country of immigrants, they had the closest thing to an even break that they could ever hope to have anywhere else.
This nation came into being because of ideas that people developed after living under a British monarchy that seemed to have no regard for their rights. The people who founded this nation also believed in ideals that they fought over with each other tooth and nail, for many long months, virtual prisoners in a house that was shuttered during the hottest part of the summer. Some of these very same men died, and some lost everything they had acquired in their lives, in order that they be given the chance to live their ideas and ideals. No people had ever been as bold as those that put everything they had, and everything they were, on the line against the superpower of the era. This wasn’t just a political revolution; it was a revolution of ideas. That was “American exceptionalism”.
Today we are bombarded with the term “American exceptionalism”. The sad part of this is that most of the people that use the term have no idea of what it means. When they say America is exceptional, they usually refer to the fact that our nation is the world’s lone superpower. They pride themselves in the fact that we went from a group of colonies to a superpower that actually rescued its mother country from fascism. They point to our inventiveness and our power… always our power. That isn’t American exceptionalism, its nationalism.
False patriotism and rampant nationalism have brought this once great nation to its knees. I find it hard to comprehend the fact that so many Americans willingly gave up their lives in order to insure that American ideals would prevail. Today we see the United States in the theater of war, not to fight for ideals, but to fight for resources. We no longer stand against torture, but practice it. We give away our liberties, the same liberties that so many Americans died for, in order to have “security” from those that could possibly do us harm. They are called “Terrorists”, not long ago they were called “Communists”. Those that fight against the American military are called “insurgents”. An entire religion has been deemed to be our enemy.
Congress has surrendered its authority by giving the executive branch the power to make war. It is no longer a co-equal member of government. We can compare the Senate to the Senate of Rome after their republic failed. Our president can make war whenever and wherever he wishes. We have become a nation that thrives on war. A nation who’s largest economic sector is the military industrial complex. A situation Eisenhower warned us about in his last speech to the nation.
America, once an idea that spawned into a nation, is no more. The ideals that were voiced during its conception are no longer the ideals of the two corporate controlled political parties that run this nation. This nation now serves the interests of the wealthiest of Americans as seen in the Wall Street bailout where casino economics brought this country to its knees and the American taxpayer was made to foot the bill to pay for their criminal escapades. Yet, not one of the Wall Street bankers has been charged with any crime! Now our government is using the nation’s debt (that doubled due to the bail-outs) to call for the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, two programs that Americans have paid into all of their working lives. The establishment that runs this country wants to claim for itself all of the wealth and leave the average American citizen with nothing. It’s not enough for them to have most of the wealth; they want all of the wealth.
The demise of America is taking place in front of our eyes. The government cries poverty when any measures are introduced in Congress that would fix our infrastructure or rebuild our industrial base or even stop the threat of global warming. These same people however always have the wherewithal to support spending on the military, even though we spend over half the military spending of the entire planet!
The legacy we leave to our children and grandchildren is in all respects, a broken nation. We have taken the richest nation on Earth and plundered it. The people that we entrusted to safeguard our republic have used that trust to line their pockets. Insatiable greed has left this nation so far in debt that we may never see our way out of it. Our civil liberties have been savaged by this American security-state we now live under. The president has the authority to assassinate anyone, anywhere, including American citizens! We have the burden of the Patriot Act that allows the government to search our homes and property without a warrant. We have the Military Commissions Act that allows the government to declare you a “terrorist” and strips you of your legal rights.
We have become a nation that sees the people in Guantanamo as so dangerous that we cannot give them a trial for their crimes, even though we tried the remaining leaders of the Third Reich! They must be dangerous indeed!
Americans that believed that Barack Obama would bring us change were deluded. Unless the majority of Americans stand up against these two corporate controlled political parties, we can only look to many more years of war and seeing our remaining civil liberties stripped away.
America was an idea and an ideal. The ideal of America is dead and buried, but the idea of America can live on. They can kill an ideal, but they can’t kill an idea. The idea of America is still carried by those who remember what we originally set out to do, to create a nation “By the people and for the people”. Let us hope that idea never dies.