Up until September of 2005, the Twenty-First Century hadn’t really begun for the United States. It took Hurricane Katrina to get things started, and she proved to be an able doula, however rough her bedside manner. It’s hard to pinpoint why, but this gray-locked tempest has caused Americans to reveal their essences in a way that our most recent disaster, the attacks of 9/11/01, did not. In fact that rotten day merely served to promote some deadly illusions we cherish about ourselves: a nation of innocents, united we stand and all that. Here’s what Katrina has washed up well above the high-tide mark, where it must either be addressed or allowed to rot in the noonday sun. Probably the latter.
Entering the Twenty-First Century, America is a deeply racist country. Most whites do not regard people of other races to be equal, and not just because Asians aren’t well-hung and black people can’t swim. If these wild generalizations seem like wild generalizations, perhaps we can at least agree that white people, who no longer represent a majority of the North American population, are still running the show to their advantage. And the various other races don’t get along any better with each other than white people do with them. All Americans do not have the same opportunities. When I was just a little kid of thirty-five, I thought economics, not race, was the dividing factor. Once Hispanics and Black Folk and Indians and the Heathen Chinee started getting the same kind of economic opportunities as the bluenoses, the issue would be money, not color, right? Wrong. I was a starry-eyed naïf living in a fool’s paradise. The white man hates everybody else (including the white woman) and everybody else hates each other.
But wait! There’s more. America has a caste system, complete with a ruling class that has consolidated and maintains power over the common folk. Both presidents Bush are from the same family, along with a state governor that will probably end up president himself one of these days, and assorted peripheral power brokers; they are the Medicis of the USA. The current president Bush and his main opposition in the latest electoral stroll for the White House were both members of the same super-elite secret society in the same super-elite university. This isn’t conspiracy stuff here. It’s the truth. The common man ain’t invited. And he’s not getting invited anytime soon.
A tiny group of particularly horrible individuals run the entire nation to suit themselves. Moneymen at the top, followed by celebrities and the Church or church; then you have your executive class, people that carry out the wishes of the upper class; then talk show hosts, creative types, and scientists and academics, living just a little better than the next folks by making the executive classes’ orders seem more palatable to the working class, at the bottom of which are the rednecks, followed by immigrants, people with ethnic identities, and finally Mexicans and Wal-Mart employees, and then me.
Race and Class aren’t enough for such a ruddy-cheeked infant as the USA. We can do more. And we have, and in the 21st Century we will. The Master of Disaster, George W. Bush, has ensured that America will be an authoritarian nation as the weary century creeps by. More laws, more enforcement, more cracking down. More intolerance. More surveillance. More secret files on more citizens for more and more tenuous reasons; restrictions on travel and civil rights and freedom, that hoary canard. The government is going to get bigger and bigger on the insidious end of things: more warmaking power, more control-grasping mechanisms. But for the average Joe, Jane, and Undecided, the government will become a remote and inscrutable force, like the Evil Empire in George Lucas’s epic sci-fi cycle ‘Bedtime for Bonzo’. The leaders will choose themselves from among themselves. They will fear and hate the common man, who will live in misery, confusion, and poverty, still clinging to his splinter of driftwood, still believing the notion of Equal Opportunity for Everybody.
So many isms. Sexism. The war against women and homos and everybody else that instinctually grasps interior design will rage on. Religion has come to the fore again, too: the nation is divided between those that think they are being persecuted for their faith, and the people they are persecuting in pursuit of this delusion. It’s going to be a century of grandiose agendas set forth by nasty little people. Not unlike every other century, but one does hope for more. All laid bare by one little hurricane! It just goes to show it’s an ill wind and everybody blows.
BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine. His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts. Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros. And Mr. Tripp may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.