Monday, July 11, 2011

This Place About to Blow

Last Tuesday night I opened my web browser and, looking to stay ahead of the news out of Capitol Hill over the debt ceiling, was instead greeted on every major American news website not to musings over the fate of budget negotiations or Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, but by ongoing, live, 24x7, shove-it-down-your-throat-‘till-it-comes-out-the-other-end coverage of the Casey Anthony trial. The most egregious of these stories could be found on MSNBC, which prominently featured photos from across the United States of citizens engaging not in civil discourse over the fact that the legislative and executive branches are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette with the American budget, but rather showed a woman, beer can clenched in her fist, yelling at a television screen, arms flailing wildly, as the verdict was announced. If this was the only photo of its sort, it could easily be chalked up to the camera glimpsing a simple-minded person, watching the judicial process unfold in a bar as if it were the final laps of a NASCAR race. After all, the only thing missing was the corporate sponsorship and the beer helmet, yet this was not the only photo of its kind as the ticker bar crept forward, showing image after image of American citizen after American citizen engaging in some weird, ritualistic behavior over something that they have been led to believe is somehow important to their existence.

Given that last week was Independence Day here in the good Ol’ US of A, there are numerous elements of this scenario that are incredibly disturbing. Is it any wonder that banks can get away with economic destruction, be dubbed “too big to fail,” whatever the hell that means, and all the while the CEOs and other corporate scumbags walk away unscathed, with million dollar bonuses, diamond studded toilets, and federal bailouts while people uninterested in hedge funds and liquidity lose their homes and jobs? Of course not, you see, this is the great shell game that is disguised as American civil discourse these days. Who cares about such stuffy matters as economic policy and domestic tranquility when American Idol is on at 9, and the trial du jour will be featured on the local news at 11? There are far more important things to worry about such as what I will purchase at Wal-Mart tomorrow, on borrowed money, or whether or not I supersize my fries at McDonalds, or whether or not Snooki will be back for another season of Jersey Shore, or whether or not Bounty truly is the quicker, thicker, picker-upper. This, my friends, is what is broadly accepted as social discourse these days, and it is disgusting. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would keel over and vomit through their nose if they were transported forward in time and laid witness to the sad state of affairs that has become the American electorate. Democracy will only thrive in the presence of active civic organizations that foster civil discourse of the type that moves policy forward. In the United States, as political discussions have taken a back seat to Survivor reruns, I fear that our young democracy is on life-support, being fed High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of the life-saving blood transfusion of fresh ideas that it needs.
And we are the only ones to blame. 

You see, the problem is that as a collective, I think we have become too complacent at passing the buck. We find a scapegoat, crucify it, and move on to the next target. Whether its gays, Michael Jackson, Bush, the religious right, the socialist left, Obama, Osama, GI Joe, Santa Claus, or the Keebler Elves, someone else is always to blame for our woes.  Meanwhile my favorite entity, the mystical, magical, and wholly ephemeral “they” tap dances silently in the background fixing things because “they” always have. I have some bad news folks, “they” have taken a short trip to Paris and met up with a hooker that puts out on a nightly basis, “they” are not coming back. While MSNBC, CNN, Fox, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, to name but a few, obsessed over the Anthony trial, a quick perusal of European news sites such as the Irish Independent and the BBC showed that Portugal’s debt rating was recently downgraded to junk status and the Eurozone contagion is rattling markets worldwide as it is feared that Spain and Italy are next, not to mention poor old Erin’s Isle. This was coupled by much better news of Congressional budget negotiations than I could find on any U.S.-based news site and further developments from Japan where the nuclear crisis continues unabated. So, to recap, while Europe slouched ever so closer to a sovereign debt crisis, while radioactive materials continue to spew from Japan, hitting the U.S. west coast on a daily basis, and while the United States deals with the most serious budget discussions perhaps in the history of our nation, the headlines were all related to a sideshow trial.

However, at the end of the day, I think that we cannot expect much more. Casey Anthony is set to cash in big time on the ever present need for the aforementioned national scapegoat. Everyone hates her, yet we still watch. Between her book deals, cable television appearances, and three sequels worth of Hollywood shit on a shingle movies that will all come in due time, she is set to milk the populace of its hard earned cash, big time. To quote the Roman poet Juvenal’s famous 2nd century missive, “give them bread and circuses.” Bread and circuses indeed, as Rome burns we drool on our shoes as the movers and shakers of global finance dictate the terms of our very existence. This stuff could get very real, very quickly, and to quote another highly viable source, the song of popstar teen icon Ke$ha (yes the “s” is a dollar sign, I didn’t make that up), I am afraid that we are at the point where “This place about to blow!”   

As such, it's high time to stop passing the buck, stand back, take a deep breath, and make some hard decisions to get things done. Hopefully those governed will wake up, for the future of our republic is at stake. It is in our hands to fix it and it always has been. As Franklin once told a passerby who inquired over the nature of the type of government being created at the Constitutional Convention, we have a "Republic....If you can keep it." It is our job to "keep it" and as of late, we have failed miserably. In the post-patriotic high of the fireworks and hotdog binge that is the 4th, the challenge is not to but a lapel pin, or put a yellow magnetic ribbon on the back of one's car, it is simply to stay engaged and informed and speak one's mind, for these are all elements that confer the status of citizen, and it is an indicator of health in a democracy that is in desperate need of it. 

More next week....

Until Then I Remain,

The Heirloom Troubadour