July Was the Cruelest Month

So did we learn anything new this summer about the bottom line in American politics?

Do you have an answer when you ask yourself what Election 2016 means to you as an American? Has the fog of rhetoric diminished, or does the obfuscation remain impenetrable?

Does the totality of meaning get lost for you amid the televised pomp and circumstance which takes precedence over common sense and answers to the overwhelming questions facing our country?

Welcome to the process—our system.

We know we are flailing because two lousy political conventions convinced us that megalomaniacs have us surrounded. Speakers, one after another, crashed the daises in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Before our very eyes they flourished, creating grotesque, unwatchable television—C-grade horror shows produced by non-talents in the public relations industry for non-talents lusting for power, prestige, money and more power.

The connected and the vilely-proud shouted, screeched, and scolded. They said nothing of import. They bashed the other, quivered with a fear of unknowable menaces, extolled fantasies of the American Dream.

What did we learn? That America is already great of course, or destined to become great again, in case we had any doubts whatsoever. We learned the shameless gravitate to the top, that leadership is ego-driven, and that the avoidance of issues is fundamental to our polity.

The citizen-representative is long dead.

We learned that shouting USA! USA! USA! silences dissent in a crowded room, just like shouts of Fire! empties one.

We knew in advance but relearned in July that whatever else happens from here on out, little will be resolved in the days, months and years ahead. Our concerns—yours and mine—about the state of the union were left unaddressed last month. The status quo rules absolutely.

We discovered progressive ideas are moribund—the center hasn’t held. The drift to the right is nearly complete.

You and I might have the sense to realize that our wars are out of control in the Middle East and in Northern Africa, that our past mistakes there are to a large degree responsible for the void. We sense that regime change and drone technology have limitations while remaining the backbone of elitist and imperial ambitions.

Good lord, we learned once again that war is peace.

Did anyone suggest solutions for any of our problems from the podium, the big stage? Did anyone acknowledge the problems at all? Nope.

Most of us weren’t there. We never are. But even a cursory glance at the televised speechmaking told us it wouldn’t have mattered, because the conventions were not democracy on display but rather a display of blind loyalty to oligarchy.

One might imagine that a police state is in the offering, that surveillance is ubiquitous, that life outside the corporate world is an abomination or impossible to envision. One wouldn’t be wrong.

Homelessness and poverty are skyrocketing, as you and I know by glancing around. No one mentioned it. The jails and prisons are bulging with citizens trapped in the system. Apparently it makes no difference.

In Cleveland, a nut case noted the system is rotten, but did so for all the wrong reasons. First, it is hard to tell what he means because he may not know himself what he is trying to tell us. Second, the wall and the deportations remain curiously anachronistic ideations, while unlivable wages are the bedrock of the narcissist’s economic theories.

The poor and people of color are living on the edge of disaster.

But the flags and the waving of them were plentiful.

That was Cleveland. What happened in Philly?

We learned student debt in now officially unmanageable and good jobs are increasingly scarce for growing numbers of intelligent and qualified workers.

We learned the future is rosy behind a shroud of platitudes, and that Hillary Clinton is everything we think she is—an old friend of Wall Street clinging to her visions of empire.

We learned Bernie Sanders was all too willing to abandon his “political revolution” to join the rightwing square dance that stomped on him.

But here is my major July learning experience. The power-elite in America are fighting over the spoils, and that is all they are disposed to do or capable of doing, and thus the colonization of America’s neighborhoods is likely to continue.

For America is like a drunkard.

America is staggering down the street like a man on a thirty-year bender. It is dirty and debased, jobless, ready to make any excuse it can to take another nip off the bottle.

America is blind drunk with delusions.

It dozes in the gutter with one eye closed and the other blinking into the sun. Feverish and dissociative, slipping into a kind of madness, a personal hell reserved for failed empires. It has no memory, no Will to get up and clean up. A little soap behind the ears, a good flossing, a gargle of anti-septic would do it wonders.

Its drunken power is an embarrassment; militarily it’s capable of blowing the world to smithereens with one finger. But that power is weightless, has no meaning beyond its bullying capabilities.

It hadn’t sense to realize it could not win in Iraq. It cannot win in Afghanistan, or anywhere it continues to bomb with impunity.

While policing the world, America cannot police its own Congress and the corporate greed our legislative branch props up like a snaky vine growing on a trellis. Americans have abdicated their democracy in the interest of comfort, which is slipping through their fingers like fool’s gold panned from a sewer running through a smelly river.

(America is overwhelmed by metaphors and similes.)

America is unable to function without a congressman in the pocket of every corrupt institution in the land. Most Americans are inured to the state’s corporatism. Millions stream like schools of fish to its pop-cultural disgraces, its manufactured art, it publishing fiascoes and Oprahesque proselytization.

American culture is at its lowest ebb, wears filthy clothing that reeks of despair and moral turpitude.

America is a mental disease so propagandized that it has become delusional and senseless—mad like Trump and as cunning as Clinton.

The gutter feels good as long as it’s near a heating grate that looks conspicuously like a television. The celebrity journalists of the day and the rest of the gang can read their latest utterances from their Teleprompters, but they construct a shaky reality built on sand.

Founded on racism, America remains racist. Founded by elites, it maintains its flailing theories of capitalization and mythic dreams. Americans are enslaved creatures, mindlessly turning the wheels, conspiring to make others do the work that they are unwilling to do themselves.

Here is a menial, minimum wage job. Be grateful you have it, and clean that mess out of the gutter.

That is a man asleep? It doesn’t matter!

American poverty is an institution that thrives by necessity to coddle the 1%.

Burt and Betty, get your guns!

Houston—and Baltimore and New Orleans and Chicago and Seattle and Miami and Portland, Maine and Portland, Oregon—we still have a problem.

Terry Simons is the founder of Round Bend Press Books in Portland, Oregon.  This story is excerpted from his memoir of growing up in Oregon, A Marvelous Paranoia.