Eight years ago, life was pretty good in America. Sure, our president was a bit lecherous and the dot-com boom was folding on many a beloved website. But America was generally a pretty amazing place to be. It was time for Bill Clinton to go and we had a wide variety of options to replace him. For the Democrats, there was Al Gore and Bill Bradley. For the Republicans, along with Alan Keyes, John McCain, and various others, we were given George W. Bush. Despite his family lineage, Bush was somewhat of a mysterious character. The sales pitch we received used some tortured logic that now seems laughable. He was an "oil man" who would use his background and expertise to help us deal with energy in the 21st century. He had been a successful governor of one of the largest states in the union. And hey, when in doubt, he could ask dear old dad for help. Yes, he'd been an alcoholic, but those days were behind him, and now he was hooked on Jesus instead. He preached "Compassionate Conservatism", and promised to be "a uniter, not a divider."
At the time, I found all of this very suspect. From his ridiculously hypocritical stance that "for too long, Americans have said, 'if it feels good do it,'" to the fact that he slid through life on his father's connections, influence and money, to his obvious arrogance despite having failed at nearly every endeavor he'd attempted in life, the script being peddled to us just didn't fit reality. I recall saying to a close friend that Bush was "emblematic of the worst aspects of America." Hypocrisy, nepotism, and ignorance, were treated as qualities to be admired. Power and wealth for the select few was the new American ideal. And unfortunately for the entire world, enough people bought this line of argument that they were able to steal the election. I don't care to rehash all the details last eight years, but here's a quick list of some of the things that happened:
- Warnings about 9/11 are ignored; 9/11 happens
- Utterly misguided and illegal war in Iraq sold to us under blatantly false pretenses; hundreds of thousands murdered
- Repeal of Habeas Corpus; Constitution generally trod upon in the name of "Freedom"
- Brutal, illegal torture of innocent people
- Severe environmental damage
- Sky-high oil prices
- Economy in shambles; China owns us
- The world at large thinks far less of us now, largely for the above reasons
When I declared him emblematic of everything that was wrong with America, it was a cynical approach to the situation. Because whatever was wrong with America, there was a heckuva lot more that was right. We were far from perfect, but on the whole, the nation was a great one. I didn't expect us to be corrupted. I just thought we deserved better than our worst.
These are serious times. In my lifetime, we have never faced a more important election. The country is actually in some serious trouble, largely thanks to Bush's stewardship. And we are once again offered a candidate who represents everything that's wrong with America. This time, it's the Republican nominee for Vice President. As in 2000, we are being told of the wondrous personage who embodies the heart and soul of America, reality be damned. For those looking closely (i.e. not nearly enough people), it is evident that Ms. Palin is an utter fraud. She is on the record with no less than 19 blatant lies, for which nobody seems to be holding her accountable. She is evasive with regards to her Christianist views, intentionally implying that she's gay-marriage nuetral and that abortion should be an issue "left to the states." Furthermore, she has made it evident that she is in no way capable of leading the country because her fundamental lack of knowledge is so pervasive that she is afraid to name a newspaper she reads.
And yet there are those who continually praise her in public. She is the shining light of today's Republican party, and she can just "study up" on all those facts and positions and information. In reality, nobody knows what she really thinks about anything. We're not even sure whether she does! The "she" we see is not real. She's the made-up fictional character that the wing-nuts want to believe in. She is their fairy godmother, reality be damned. This is a laughable situation. And I am lamentably reminded of that comment I made regarding George Bush eight years ago. Sarah Palin is emblematic of the worst aspects of America.
However, there are two major difference this time around. The first, this isn't even her fault. All she did was say yes to the offer like any remotely power-hungry person would. She's towing the company line, but not the one penning the script. The second, the worst aspects of America are far more opprobrious today than they were eight years ago. A blatant disdain for the truth coupled with a sadistic approach to defending our country have given rise to attitudes that make shouting death threats at a political rally a viable form of discourse. I had this posting nearly completed a week ago, and it comes as no surprise to me that this is where we have landed. Because to believe in and embrace a character like Sarah Palin, you must do the same to the darkest parts of today's America.
A year ago, I visited 43 of our states and met over 1,000 regular people, all in less than four months. My country means more to me now than it ever had before. As much as anybody, I know that most of America is better than this. But when lied to, we make mistakes. We can't trust our media. We have to think for ourselves. It's time to turn our backs on everything that's wrong with America. Right now, that means turning our backs on a lot. More than any time I can remember.
There are two men running for president. One openly embraces our most forbidding traits. The other shuns them, preferring to tie his future to our most promising ones. This isn't a damn football game. We can't afford not to pay attention this time.
Incidentally, the title of this posting refers to a song by my brother's former band, The Wayouts. It's ten years old. Who knew that, at least in some ways, those were the better days... This concludes my serious rant for this week. I'll be back with tales of dulce de leche and hopefully a bed very soon. Until then, God Bless America.