I have a friend who claims he hasn’t read a newspaper or watched the nightly/daily/24-7 news in a decade. He figures if he needs to know something, if there is something out there that affects his life directly he’ll hear about it from somebody or, indeed, it will affect his daily life. He’s given-up on trying to make any sense of the world’s travails. He’s concluded America is slipping into that morass of mediocre nation states–Italy, Greece, France, Germany, England–who had their fling on top of the heap, prospered, became corrupted at the core through avarice, mendacity, chest-thumping, then slip-slid into, yes, that syrupy morass where all efforts are made just to keep the collective head above the immense pull of all that despoiled baggage; you know, the stuff that once promised greatness, invincibility, a God-blessed ten-thousand year run amongst the nations of the earth.
I’m beginning to lean a wee bit toward his admittedly cynical view of the world. And, having just written the word “cynical” I’m wondering if the word shouldn’t be “obvious” or “realistic.”
Having matriculated at C.U. and after achieving a degree in history, I’ve often harkened back to one of the giants of my generation (historians, that is), Richard Hofstadter, who, in the “History of Violence,” noted:
When one considers American history as a whole, it is hard to think of any very long period in which it could be said that the country has been consistently well governed. And yet its political system is, on the whole, a resilient and well-seasoned one, and on the strength of its history one must assume that it can summon enough talent and good will to cope with its afflictions. To cope with them–but not, I think, to master them in any thoroughly decisive or admirable fashion. The nation seems to slouch onward into its uncertain future like some huge inarticulate beast, too much attainted by wounds and ailments to be robust, but too strong and resourceful to succumb.
…I sometimes think that all American experience is a series of disjunctive situations whose chief connecting link is that each generation repeats the belief of its predecessor that there is nothing to be learned from the past.
Reading a piece from AlterNet over the weekend that provided excerpts from Bill Moyers newest book, “Moyers on Democracy,” I found myself not disagreeing with the conclusions Moyers has postulated. For example:
Democracy in America is a series of narrow escapes, and we may be running out of luck. …We have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear, and the great American experience in creating a different future together has been subjugated to individual cunning in the pursuit of wealth and power–and to the claims of empire, with it ravenous demands and stuporous distractions.
Our Constitution is perilously close to being consigned to the valley of the shadow of death, betrayed by a powerful cabal of secrecy-obsessed authoritarians. …Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it.
Here is my bias: extremes of wealth and poverty cannot be reconciled with a genuinely democratic politics. When the state becomes the guardian of power and privilege to the neglect of justice for the people as a whole, it mocks the very concept of government as proclaimed in the preamble to our Constitution…
Our democracy has prospered most when it was firmly anchored in the idea that “We the People”–not just a favored few–would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas and win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely.
Juxtapose Hofstadter and Moyers with one of my favorite movies (and books) “Seabiscuit,” that David and I watched for probably the third or fourth time this past weekend. The movie provides a good representation of the life and triumphs and tragedies of not only the wonderful, scrappy, big-hearted racing horse, Seabiscuit, but of the times in America–the Depression–that contributed to showcasing this particular story of an unlikely hero, Seabiscuit, against the backdrop of what FDR had told the nation about America’s particular predicament at the time; that America had nothing to fear but fear itself. It was a time when there still remained a particularly vivid belief in the resiliency of the American spirit. It was a time when a crippled President, a crippled nation, an undersized and peculiar little colt who could run as the wind all bellied up to that inarticulate but nevertheless very real–perhaps now lost–collective sense that hope and hard work and a fundamental belief in the essential wisdom of democracy meant simply that the little guy (the little colt) could make it, that the little guy could and would become the foundation of the whole.
I mist up three-quarters of that movie. See, if you’re gonna put a horse (or a dog) on the ticket with the Depression, then you’re gonna have to put up with my waterworks. No way around that.
I guess then, after having given you what’s above, I need to give you something below.
I’ve not posted in a while because, yes, epiphanies have erupted. Epiphanies get in the way of settling yourself down and concentrating on what you used to think were worthwhile, even vital concerns for you and your city, your community, your neighborhood. And, if I were to take my recent epiphanies very seriously, I might ask or comment as follows:
Is it really, really a sad commentary on the American ethos to see Dubya, Dipshit Dubya hangin’ around all those Saudi princes’ begging for more oil? Yeah, I think it is. He embarrasses me. But, then, it’s not the first time.
Do I really care what Susan Barnes-Gelt thinks about zoning or liquor in the parks? She is one uppity pedantic bit…, nope, character who still embraces the notion that she knows–above all (she did, after all, work for Federico Pena)–what’s good for this city and its neighborhoods for at least the last twenty-five years and I’m getting just a little weary of her schoolmarm antics and… Well, you get the point. I admire her grit, her commitment to Denver. But–as I think he son told her not so long ago–it’s time for her to push herself away from the table. It’s probably time for her to go sit in the parlor, sip madeira and become comfortable as the family’s acknowledged oddball who cuddles the cat, scares the dog and lectures the children about “…you don’t get to zone ugly!!!”
Do I really think an African-American can be elected to the office of President. No, I don’t. Hope I’m wrong. But, there it is.
Hillary can’t win. Sorry, but epiphanies are like that; they provide imperatives.
So, the Hick hasn’t got the money for the Democratic National Convention and we, us taxpayers, may end-up footing part of the bill and, whoa, that’s okay because all those folks who are coming into Denver for the Donkey fest will replenish our coffers up to–what?–thirty some odd millions of dollars and God will be in his Heaven and don’t worry be happy and if yah’ wanna march or protest or sleep out in the park or, well, you know, just exercise your Constitutional rights during the convention you won’t be able to because this fuckin’ city will be locked up tighter than a drum, y’all, and… Ah, I need not go on. This one is probably self-explanatory. democracy in action? NO. Democracy in action, YES. The Democracy has lost its soul.
I could, of course, go on and on. Like I said, I haven’t posted in a while and a lot of things have kinda slipped by the old blog. Hope to be more timely.
P.S. Hey, Doog. I’m fine. Thanks for asking.