The Shallow End

The political rot is so profound in the US, it’s like we we’ve been splashing around on the shallow end of the pool of American Exceptionalism, and suddenly we can’t touch bottom.

The bottom now is actually miles below our feet, in water so deep it looks dark at noon. This thought is so frightening we push it aside when it comes up.

We’ve stupidly drifted out to sea, far away from the pool of American mythology, taking undue comfort in the belief we could get right back to it in the next election if only we all get out the vote.

The same people we already voted for the last time and got into power, and then they did nothing for us, are now telling us again to vote for them because if we don’t then it will be our fault, and our fault alone when we lose to the barbarians. The gall inside the Beltway is just insufferable.

While this special-interests political farce claiming to be our “democracy” has been playing out, the strands of climate change, nuclear weapons, constant war, and income inequality have all joined together weaving a thick rope.

That thick rope is the undertow that every day has dragged our country farther and farther out to sea, away from the pool of politics as usual. Where we are now we can’t even see land.

Our drift into the deep ocean happened slowly, in American style, with pomp and circumstance even as most of us toiled to make ends meet, tweeting and texting and talking smack, often looking down on the rest of the world.

And now in America we’re like sullen children that won’t be denied. We’re throwing tantrums and shooting people, stomping our feet demanding that our magical thinking better be true or else!

We hate each other and we’re armed to the teeth.  One side is convinced we can get back to the pool if only we vote, while the other side is just as busy trying to get rid of the vote altogether.

We have to take sides now because we’ve come to the end of what we’ve known as the USA. What’s coming next will be an altogether different America.

In other words, our days at the pool are over. We’re not getting back there.  Sad as that is to contemplate, it signals our need to think differently and more maturely about everything.

We’ll have to work intelligently to preserve the kind of education that empowers people and gives them agency and critical thinking.  We are losing that very rapidly under the tyranny of extreme Right nationalist politics.

We will need to join hands with many other people who want the same things going forward. And in this there is hope in goals that can bring enjoyment and a sense of community and justice.

None of this will come from on high because from the corporate heights of Big Banks and multinationals nothing has ever dripped down other than lies, disdain, and exploitation. We know this much by now. Milton Friedman’s neoliberal poison completely detached from social responsibility was just that: poison.

The rentier capitalists have lost legitimacy and they know it, so all they have left is violence and they’re using it.

Today we remain in denial about the fact that the vote itself is precisely what’s rapidly disappearing, and with it the politics of debate between the two parties, the exchange of ideas through argument, the very concept of democracy.

All that good stuff stayed back in the shallow end of the pool. Those were the good old days before social media came in to amplify the fatal Big Lie of Trumpism, and with it the subversion of truth, civility, vision, and Democracy itself.

New legislation already in place in at least half the states in the country is now anchoring the dismal trajectory towards an anti-democratic authoritarian America. It adumbrates a dark fiefdom with traits that are downright medieval especially for women.

Unregulated capitalism and authoritarianism both hate democracy equally, so guess what White Christian Nationalism is about in America today?

It’s exactly about that: private capital and political power being concentrated in the hands of tiny elites who think they know best; people who imagine themselves in a theocracy where they’re the chosen ones deserving to call all the shots for everyone else on the planet.

They could not care less for the ABC’s of governance, the common good, new infrastructure, new science and research, because they are actually anti-science, anti-evidence-based anything. This is a descent into barbarism run by lies, violence and oppression, a very old movie unfortunately still unfamiliar to too many millions of Americans who remain unaware of history.

Needless to say, Black and Brown people need not apply to enter this special Christian theocracy.

Besides the vote, which has led us to the edge of this abyss, in the future we’ll need to undertake new, long-term intelligent ways to mobilize and organize ourselves to take direct civil action.

Only direct civil action can bring together many millions of Americans with similar interests, folks that want to preserve science and truth, along with decency, courage and integrity in social relations. These are people interested in a smart and kinder future, not in a violent and dumb one.

The imaginary democracy we managed to deploy from the shallow end with our occasional vote and little else is what got us to where we are today.  It is no longer working at all.

The vast majority of people’s interests always end up on the floor of Congress, walked over by grandstanding politicians whose salaries we pay, and in return the give us their condescension and their grift.

A lot of those folks are mediocrities in decrepitude, subservient to their financial masters whose brutal interests they have served for decades in exchange for cash.

Back in 2010, the Supremes at the United States Supreme Court paved the sixteen-lane super highway to total political corruption by corporate money known as Citizens United. That was unforgivable.

In many ways it’s good we drifted out of the shallow end, because that was a very small pool where only the rich and powerful could play. We can create a new opportunity because the ocean can include everybody.  Hopefully we won’t all drown in the process.

We’ll need to go beyond our usual token voter participation in the fake democracy of the shallow end, and create new spaces open with possibility.

Throughout history and even in prehistory humans reinvented themselves many times. We can do it again.

The shallow end was structured to favor those with private property, and to bamboozle with false promises and nostrums the vast majority of people without significant private property.

With such a fantastic amount of talent and good people in America, it should be possible to reconfigure ourselves into something better than what we have turned into. That bar is low.