Like many Americans, since early childhood I was taught that good always triumphs over evil. But as I grew older and acquainted myself with the history of my country, my perspective became less naïve and better informed. My perceptions of reality were altered forever, and I am forced to live, like so many of my readers, with the burden of knowledge that often makes reality painful to bear.
America could have been very different, but it has become a land of unfathomable corruption. It is a place where money rules and lords power over everyone and every process. Corruption has lodged itself in every tissue and every organ of our societal institutions, and riddled them with crippling disease. Perhaps more than any organ it has blinded our ability to see what is before us.
The root of corruption stems from America’s love affair with private wealth and conquest. We are a culturally shallow and spiritually deprived people who seem incapable of discerning truth from fairy tales. This may be a matter of convenience for some and a survival mechanism to others.
There are three primary cultural pillars that are the underpinning of our society: government, media, and religion. It is widely assumed that these institutions exist to serve the people. Whatever their intent when they were birthed in the minds and hearts of their creators, these institutions were subverted and used to subdue and control the masses; to make them subservient to power. Virtually everything we believe about America is contradicted by the evidence, but too many of us are unwilling to come to grips with reality, which thus assures the continuation of a brutal and tortuous history of murder and conquest.
In a wonderful essay titled The Problem is Civil Obedience, historian Howard Zinn wrote, “I start from the supposition that the world is topsy-turvy, that the wrong people are in jail and the wrong people are out of jail, that the wrong people are in power and the wrong people are out of power” Zinn, as usual, sums up the situation perfectly. But the great majority refuses to see things as they really are. They prefer fairy tales to truth that is too painful for them to acknowledge and to bear; and so the charade continues.
Those on the far right of the political spectrum are fond of saying that America is a Christian nation, when, in fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. The framers of the Constitution, especially Thomas Jefferson, took great pains to keep America from evolving into a Theocracy. Even so, religion should provide a moral compass that steers its participants away from corruption and moral morass. Yet with only a comparatively few exceptions, religion is used against its followers. It serves wealth and power, and keeps the masses ignorant, and subservient to the hierarchy of the church, which is in collusion with the money changers in government.
Organized religion, like the mainstream media and the government, is controlled by the wealthy and powerful. It serves the high priests of capitalism and is little more than an enabler of corruption and conquest. Let us not forget that Manifest Destiny was driven by a puritanical zealotry that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of a continent. The collusion of religion with material wealth lends a false aura of moral authority to disingenuous and misguided human behaviors that follow immoral government into war after war. Thus the rich continue to exploit the working people for the benefit of the ruling class.
At some point in our history Jesus of Nazareth was supplanted by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. The Jesus who despised the wealthy and believed in service to the poor, who in anger overturned the tables of the money changers, no longer exists within the American psyche. Unlike Jesus, Robertson and Falwell believe in accruing wealth to themselves and in assassinating their enemies. They work hand in hand with the morally bankrupt leadership that has invaded and occupies 135 of the world’s 192 nations. The genuine article has somehow given way to the counterfeit, and too many of us are unable to tell the difference.
In a purer form organized religion-in this case Christianity, would be revolutionary and radical; and it would serve as a bulwark against the accumulation of private affluence in favor of public service, and a massive redistribution of wealth and power. It would find itself, like any conscientious individual, in formal opposition to the conventions of government and society, rather than an enabler of them. But that clearly is not the case these days.
The church, like all things American, more closely resembles a for profit corporation than a place where human souls are instructed in righteous behavior and healed.
Similarly, the naïve among us broadly assume that the mainstream media exists to inform the people, and thus serves as a countervailing force against corruption and malfeasance. In truth the corporate media serves those in power rather than holding them accountable to the people. While it was not always so, the mainstream media, like organized religion, is used to program public perceptions-to steer us away from truth and to perpetuate fairy tales that extol the virtues of bribery, violence, and greed. It makes useful idiots of those who cannot think for themselves and persuades them to act like fools in the eyes of the world.
From the days of Tom Paine we have regressed to an era in which news anchors are rewarded for their loyalty to political regimes by being awarded positions in government. Tom Paine and the spirit of public service have given way to Tony Snow and Katie Couric, and the creation of media celebrities. The boundary between government and media, between church and state and corporate power, no longer exists. They are all interchangeable parts in a machine that makes a mockery of social justice and human freedoms.
Gone are the days of radical, revolutionary religion in America. Gone are the days of Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams, when a just and Democratic Republic seemed possible. Gone are the days of Tom Paine and the militant press that challenged corrupt power. The hands of time are no longer moving forward; we have reversed them. Once again the dark ages loom large on the horizon before us like an unseen iceberg in the chill dark of an Atlantic night.
CHARLES SULLIVAN is a photographer, free lance writer and social activist residing in the hinterland of West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.