As humankind marches relentlessly towards a profoundly uncertain future, there’s one political change most everyone agrees is likely to happen in the 21st century – the ultimate death of democracy. Some insist that democracy was never a good idea, and that allowing ordinary people a voice in governance was foolhardy. Some believe that democracy has outlived it usefulness, and that it is now insufficiently responsive to an increasingly complex world. Even some supporters freely admit that the forces arrayed against democracy have become too powerful to resist.
Putting aside the value and effectiveness of democracy for a moment (we’ll get back to it later on in this post), let’s examine the four main challengers to democracy and their distinct motivations:
CONSERVATISM. The philosophies of laissez-faire capitalism, Christian fundamentalism, and white nationalism, have coalesced into a generally unified political ideology throughout western societies…
So. The oligarchs got their wish last night, under cover of darkness. In secrecy and total lack of transparency, in the dead of a December night, they passed a tax bill that robs the poor and middle class to further enrich the 1% and the corporations. An almost 500-page document with scribbled handwritten notes was presented to them hours before they had to vote. This is a terrible way to govern. It is the way things are done in third world dictatorships.
Not only is this bill, should it become law, going to gut the middle class and cause many of them to fall into poverty, it robs the most vulnerable members of society of healthcare (by repealing the ACA mandate), sneaks in a “fetal personhood” law, and gives huge tax breaks for things like private jets and vacation homes, but takes away the child tax credit for average families and the ability of teachers to deduct necessary things like school supplies. It also cuts Medicaid and other programs many people rely on.
It also will explode the economy by adding 1.3 trillion to our national debt, which is their legacy to our children and grandchildren. The GOP is aware of this, and don’t care, because it works for them. It gives them a handy excuse to gut or eliminate Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare later on (neither Social Security or Medicare are entitlement programs — they are trust funds we’ve been paying into our entire working lives!) But I don’t expect them to be there when I need them in a few more years. I have no idea what I’m going to do then. But the Powers That Be will just find a way to blame the Democrats for the economy collapsing and making it necessary for them to enforce draconian austerity measures that are necessary to repair the economy. Of course, what they say is all bullshit and is just gaslighting. They never take any responsibility for the damage they do; all they do is shift the blame to others.
Their ideal America is not one where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They prefer one where the rights of most of us are stripped away, where voting is suppressed or we can’t vote at all, where dissenters are punished for having a voice, where honest and ethical reporters are jailed or silenced, where immigrants are deported or locked up, where toxic authoritarian evangelical Christianity is the law of the land, where women are chattel and property, where slavery is allowed, and the rest of us serfs toil 6 or 7 days a week (because eventually two day weekends will be abolished as well since that was a right that came about due to labor laws of the early 20th century). Our lives will be brutal and short, just like they were in the Dark Ages. At best, their ideal society will be a replay of the Gilded Age, which was a horrible life for most people too. These criminals running our government won’t be satisfied until not one penny is left for us, where the middle class is gone, and we are living in a feudal society where the mighty oligarchs look down from their gated mansions up on the hill at the great unwashed masses of the impoverished existing in their shanty towns down below.
I need not go on about the horrors of such an America, but it’s what they want and it’s closer at hand than most people realize. The oligarchs have declared war on us, and their greed knows no limits. Their God is Mammon. They will kill us either passively (by taking away our means to live or be healthy) or aggressively (that might be coming) in order to keep enriching themselves and feel not one iota of remorse or regret, for they have no conscience. They gaslight us by insisting that their greed, meanness, and consciencelessness is somehow “godly” or “defending freedom.”
They lie to us by insisting that “more jobs will be created” if the ultra-rich pay less taxes, but four decades of trickle-down economics and the recessions that always result from GOP economic policies have proven this does not work. Yet, in their willful ignorance, conservatives keep insisting trickle down economics does work, or that if it hasn’t, this time it will (what’s that saying about insanity and trying the same thing over and over?) But in reality, it’s we, the so-called “parasites” and “useless eaters” who are the real job creators, because it’s demand for products and services that create jobs, not tax breaks for the rich. Without us to buy their products and services, they would all go out of business. If we get to keep more of our money to spend, we buy more and that’s what creates jobs, not tax breaks that are mostly invested in offshore banks and used to buy elections and control politics. Most economists now agree trickle down economics doesn’t work and only creates more inequality between the richest and everyone else. The greedy oligarchs, not us, are the real parasites on society.
This isn’t a rant against the rich. I know most wealthy people aren’t like this. I think most of the rich are still decent human beings, unwilling to rob the rest of us to line their own pockets, but the ones with the most power and the ones who have bought our government and greatly influence elections — the Kochs, the Mercers, the DeVos family, the Adelsons, etc. — have declared war on the rest of us, helped along by the complicit Republican Party, who are beholden to their oligarch donors. I think the Citizens United decision was possibly the worst thing to happen to democracy and the death blow that made such a pathocratic, kleptocratic government possible.
I am beyond disappointed and heartsick at Susan Collins’ and John McCain’s decision to vote yes on this bill. I mistakenly believed they were both people of conscience and would not put party before country, greed over people. I was wrong. Back in July, I wrote a glowing tribute to John McCain after his dramatic “no” vote on Obamacare repeal. I will be removing that post, since he proved last night he’s no different than the rest of them and has sold his soul too.
And now they want to repeal Net Neutrality too, which will mean we will have to pay more to read what we want to read or view what we want to view, or not get to access it at all. It’s a form of internet censorship, which makes it easier for huge corporations to control the web, at the expense of the small business owners, everyday people, and small-time bloggers like me. If Net Neutrality is repealed, we bloggers may find our traffic has dropped drastically, since so many people will no longer be able to access our sites. If we earn an income from blogging, or sell things online, we will be hurt financially by the repeal. I have an awful feeling it’s going to pass.
I feel like I’m grieving a death, the death of my country. It’s not a sudden, merciful death; it’s a long, drawn-out painful one. What makes it worse is knowing that this country that used to be “the shining light on the hill” for the rest of the world, is now seen as an enemy by advanced western democracies, a country that has turned on its own people and is now turning us against each other. We are no better than a third world dictatorship (with nukes). The criminal enterprise posing as our government literally is trying to kill us — or make our lives as painful and oppressive as they can until we die. It’s slow genocide. That’s not an exaggeration or a conspiracy theory. These are bad people with evil intentions. They want us to go away because we are in their way in their quest for unlimited power and wealth. But eventually it will destroy them too, for without us to buy their goods (or not able to buy their goods), how will they maintain their opulent lifestyles?
When people begin to die, it won’t just be because the poor, the old, the sick, the disabled, and even children will have their social safety net that keeps them alive stripped away and be forced to fend for themselves in an increasingly hostile, repressive, and unhealthy environment. It won’t just be because the air, water and land they’re deliberately destroying will eventually kill us. I’ve also seen a number of comments on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) from people feeling so hopeless and scared they’re actually considering suicide. People will kill themselves because they have lost all hope. They feel like the bullies have won and believe there’s nothing they can do. We have an abusive president, and an abusive cabal of conscienceless operatives, who want us to feel that way. They want us feeling worn down, exhausted, and ready to give up — because when we give up, they acquire complete control. That’s how Hitler was able to get away with his crimes. The German people were complacent, and with only a few exceptions (White Rose Society), most people gave him the benefit of the doubt or called him a “buffoon” and believed he was a bad or incompetent leader but essentially harmless. Or they felt so beaten down and afraid they did nothing. I see many Americans and the American mainstream media acting much the same way. That has to stop.
They are waging a war on empathy. Empathy and having a conscience and sense of real morality (not just being anti-abortion and anti-gay) is seen as something bad by this pathocracy who has wrested power and forced their will on us in darkness and secrecy. They are sociopaths and and narcissists who believe empathy is a weakness, something for “snowflakes” and “those dirty liberals.” They believe in authoritarian strongmen who show no mercy. Their spiritual leader is Ayn Rand, who thought empathy was evil and selfishness a virtue. Her un-Christian, un-American philosophy is hardwired into their minds, even those who profess to be Christians. This is a spiritual war, a literal war between good and evil. There can be no goodness in a society that thrives on selfishness, military might, greed, racism, sexism, and hatred. There can be no goodness in a society where the only measure of a person’s worth is their success in obtaining power and wealth (or their being born into it). There can be no goodness in a society that treats its most vulnerable members with hard-hearted callousness “for their own good.”
We are facing our shadow, and the sickness in America that has been hidden for at least 40 years is now right on the surface for everyone to see. That’s good, because it’s not until the symptoms of an illness become visible, that action is taken to eradicate the disease that caused them. That some choose not to see the symptoms, or believe those symptoms are actually signs of good health, proves how deep and pervasive the sickness really is. This cancer of selfishness, sociopathy, greed, and narcissism must be eradicated, and fast.
But how do we do it? Calling our representatives, sending them letters, going to protests, posting snarky memes, signing petitions, and waiting around to vote in rigged elections obviously isn’t enough. I don’t have any good ideas. But we must keep fighting this malicious power however we can (without breaking the law — for now at least) and never, ever give up. It’s when we give up that it’s all over and they own us to do whatever they want with. Let’s learn from Nazi Germany and not allow what happened there happen here. Let’s brainstorm together. But how do we keep fighting evil without succumbing to despair and hopelessness? I don’t know.
I did have one thought. We could register as Republicans (as odious as that is). That would throw a monkey wrench into their voter suppression efforts and also keep us from being tracked down and surveilled. We could still vote for who we want to vote for. What do you think?
As down as I feel today, this clip from “Animal House” put a smile on my face. Bluto is right — let’s get going! #Resist!
You are also invited to join my Facebook group if you’re wrestling with Trump trauma like I am. You will be required to answer one question. Trump supporters are not welcome.
We are drowning in cynicism. Cynicism is killing us! Cynicism is destroying our way of life! Honest! You’ve gotta believe me.
And the poster child for cynicism murdering American democracy is the whole Donna Brazile accusations of the Clinton campaign of kidnapping the DNC and hiding the nomination from Sanders just as he was scooping it up in his hot little hands.
A quick aside: This post is one of an interrelated series on (a) the corrosive toxic effect the Ol’ Pussy Grabber’s use of chaos and misinformation (Deflecting to Clinton), (b) the ways social media is changing our culture and interactions (Brain Hack: the Looming Disaster), and (c) how all this is likely to affect the future of our country. The series includes posts and memes. Unfortunately, it means that general information like the Illusion of Truthiness (with appologies to Stephen Colbert)is…
When I was a little girl back in the ’60s, life was good. There was a sense — even among children as young as I was — that America was a good place: prosperous and powerful, but also with a large, healthy middle class, a strong public school system, an effective safety net and strong labor unions that kept the vast majority of people from falling into poverty, institutions that actually worked, and a sense that the President of the United States would always be a man of high moral character and compassion for others.
Community was important. Libraries, public schools, the post office, and the infrastructure in general were there to serve the greater good, and they did their job well. No one questioned their existence. It was unheard of for people to complain about having to pay taxes to support the community or to have nice things like public schools, fire departments, libraries, safe and well-kept roads, Social Security for the elderly, federal grants so kids could go to college, poverty-relief programs like Medicaid or food stamps, and national or state parks. The rich — of which there were only a few — weren’t that rich: in the 1950s, the wealthiest 1% paid 91% of their income in taxes (now they pay only 35% and that number is about to drop even more under the Trump tax plan). If anyone complained, you never heard about it. Everyone assumed that it was only fair the wealthy pay more in taxes, because the common good was seen as more important than the few wealthy being able to buy yet another mansion or yacht (or use their vast sums of money to influence politicians and buy votes).
Politicians and leaders were generally seen as trustworthy and benevolent. A few were not, but they hid it well (or were slapped down quickly) if they weren’t. If they broke the law (like Nixon with Watergate), there were consequences — and they apologized and gracefully stepped down. Most seemed to care about the average American. Both Democrats and Republicans seemed supportive of public institutions that helped everyday people and worked to build things instead of tear everything down. As the sixties turned into the seventies, measures began to be taken to clean up the environment, and formerly polluted rivers and cities began to heal themselves as new regulations were put into place that put people over profits. The EPA was established.
When something bad happened, you had faith that the President was someone who was able to comfort and identify with the people’s pain. You could rest assured that whether Democrat or Republican, the president was a person not only of high moral character but also of high empathy.
Where I lived in the New Jersey suburbs, I was pretty much sheltered from all the social changes until the very late sixties or early seventies. I heard about hippies on the evening news, but they seemed like some sort of fascinating exotic creatures to me, very far from my own sheltered childhood reality of homework, kickball, and Barbie dolls. The Vietnam War seemed like something happening on another planet, a terrible but abstract thing I never had to worry about.
I was too young to realize that women did not have many choices or that racial segregation was still being practiced, especially in the South. As the civil rights movement began to change society, all it meant for me was that my school became more integrated. Since I lived in an all-white part of town, having a few non-white students around made things more interesting. If there was any pushback, I wasn’t privy to it. Gradually, my grade school textbooks began to have photos of black and Hispanic kids in addition to the WASP-y looking people that populated the textbooks of my first and second grade years. In 1972, we sold our home to a black family, and I found out later the neighbors’ reaction was pretty negative, but we had already moved away by then so their reaction didn’t matter.
As the women’s movement came along and women began to chafe at their limited roles as housewives and mothers, there was a more negative effect on me personally. As a preteen, I needed my mother (or thought I did), and her suddenly leaving my dad and spending so much time away from home and embarking on a career made me feel, well, as if she no longer loved me. Of course, my mother’s narcissism — which was the real problem, not her feminism — has been written about here many times, but this post isn’t about that.
In spite of the problems ’70s-era feminism caused for me (or seemed to cause), as I got a little older I embraced it. The world seemed wide open with possibilities and choices. It was exciting to stand on the brink of adulthood and know I could be anything I wanted to be (things didn’t quite work out that way, but again, that’s another topic that has more to do with my individual background and poor choices). What’s important is that back then, the future seemed like a carnival of brilliant colors and endless possibilities.
In 2017, things are vastly different today than they were forty years ago. I don’t even feel like this is America anymore. We are a country under siege by a corrupt group of selfish, compassionless, greedy criminals and their financial donors who pull all the strings to funnel ever more money away from the rest of us and into their own pockets. They are actively trying to tear down the institutions that made us great and built a strong sense of community back in the postwar years. Everything that helps families and children is being gutted. Democracy is a thing of the past.
They are trying to legislate a repressive, authoritarian form of evangelical Christianity that would not only roll back hard-won rights and freedoms of women, minorities, and LGBTQ people, but also marginalize and punish those same people. It seems like what they really want is a return to the Gilded Age, only with an ISIS-like religious theocracy in place of the Constitution.
Incredibly, they are shoving their oppressive religion down everyone else’s throats and infiltrating the highest reaches of politics in the name of religious freedom. I’m afraid we are dangling on the precipice of becoming a totalitarian state which wouldn’t look too different from Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale. At the very least, we are on the brink of civil war between the Trump-emboldened far right Christian extremists and white supremacists and everyone who believes in liberty, justice and freedom for all. Violence is glorified and even after last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, certain Republicans are actually blaming the victimsof the shooting for not doing enough to defend themselves instead of placing the blame where it belongs: on the need for stricter gun laws. Talk about gaslighting!
If all that wasn’t bad enough, we are in real danger of being decimated by nuclear war. Our own government (aided by Russia) has declared war on us from within, but oh no, that’s not our only problem. Our president — a conman and pathological liar who would have already been in prison 40 years ago — is engaged in a schoolyard pissing contest with North Korea’s dictator, and is threatening and abusing us all by making veiled threats about nuclear annihilation on Twitter. I cannot trust this president to do the right thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure his intentions are malicious. I really do feel like our own president has declared war not only on the most vulnerable Americans, but also on those who still value decency and compassion and community.
It’s ironic to me that Trump is rolling back laws that require employers to cover contraception and women’s healthcare, since Trump’s America is not any place I would want to bring a child into. If I were of childbearing age, I’m pretty sure today I would choose not to have children. I worry about my own two kids, who are just starting their adult lives in this new, mean version of America, a collapsing empire now infested by unspeakable evils we couldn’t even imagine a few decades ago. I actually hope my kids remain childless until (and if) things get better.
This country that held so much promise as I entered adulthood has been gutted from within. All I can see is a dystopian nightmare future. I would never want to foist it on an innocent child. I feel very sorry for kids being born today. I don’t understand how anyone with a soul would want to have a child under this oppressive, toxic, uncaring, hateful, and dangerous regime. They will never know the same America that I knew.