James Clay Fuller

Things We're Not Supposed to Say

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The truth: We are two Americas

Over all, the United States of America has the government it deserves.

Millions of us, and the rest of the world, deserve better, but there doesn't seem to be much of significance we can do about that at the moment. The ignorant rule. Or, rather, the plutocrats rule to their own benefit, and the deluded mob supports them.

A change of presidents, if it comes, will not change that significantly.

Think about the fact that Sarah Palin, a babbling fool who isn't even qualified for her first political job as mayor of a very small town, is the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate and that she is adored by a significant portion of the population.

Think about Sen. Ted Stevens, the Republican senator from Palin's home state of Alaska, who is a grasping, self-serving, power-loving plutocrat, on trial for corruption but still apt to be re-elected.

Think about the fact that Michele Bachmann, at least equal to Palin in ignorance and lack of intellectual capacity, represents Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District, and probably will be reelected in November.

Think about all of the other venal fools and obvious crooks who hold high office in this country. Think about the lumpish egomaniac who lost two elections but still sits in the White House and is called president.

It is difficult to explain to someone from another country –- it is difficult for many of us to understand –- but obviously it is true that millions of Americans really do want their country run by people who are as undereducated and as lacking in curiosity and ability to understand complex questions as they are themselves. Corrupt crooks? No problem; elect them anyway if they share your view of gays or immigrants.

“My opinion is as good as anyone else's” is a sentence I've heard many times from people who have no understanding at all of economics, history, science or philosophy –- in fact, no comprehension of a world beyond their limited circles, no clue as to the way government works and no sense of morality beyond what the preachers tell them on Sunday mornings.

As the crowds at Palin's rallies demonstrate, millions of Americans believe that “being a mom” is all the experience one needs to be vice president, and therefore president, of the United States.

Juggling play dates and getting kids to hockey practice on time is regarded as sufficient to teach one how to deal with multiple wars and evaluate possible solutions to global warming –- unless one rejects the concept because it doesn't fit with what you believe about “end days,” of course.

So, no, their opinions aren't as good as anyone else's. But they never will recognize that.

Get out there and listen to those people, the American electorate. You'll find they believe that “all men are equal,” and don't grasp the fact that the equality the founders of this country aimed for was equality of opportunity. If you're a dummy, you are NOT equal to a knowledgeable, intellectually active person when it comes to discerning how best to govern this over-sized country.

It was not the illiterate stable hands nor even the barkeeps, good men though they may have been, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and led the Revolution against England.

That is an admission none of us are supposed to make, lest we be struck down as “elitists.” Strive to elect politicians who are smarter than the average loaf of bread and know more than the average 12-year-old and we become “Eastern elitists,” which is something as repulsive as dog droppings on the soles of one's shoes.

The mob despises “elites,” which is to say intelligent, educated people with some understanding of the world beyond the circumscribed lives of middle class suburbanites.

Palin's “real America,” is semi-literate, despises knowledge, deeply mistrusts anyone who isn't exactly like themselves and, in fact, wants to banish all who are different -- particularly darker skinned people and those who come from different cultures.

If you doubt that, you haven't been out and about much outside your own liberal circles. Twice in the past week I've heard Republican voters -– the very people who are being hurt the most by the economy created by the political right -– railing about blacks and Hispanics and Asians and blaming them for everything from the downward slide of our cities to the great economic crash of 2008.

In fact, Bachmann said a few days ago that the meltdown of financial institutions is the fault of non-whites and the white folks who coddle them.

The “real Americans” wouldn't put someone as ignorant as themselves in charge of the corporations in which they make their livings, but they have no qualms about putting such a person in the White House or Congress.

Because the people who play to them and simultaneously abuse them –- the corporate right wingers –- tell them so, they believe that government is simple. Listen to the conversations around you when you're outside your own circle of safety. See how often you here someone say about some complex problem , “All you have to do is....” or “We just have to....”

Usually, we “just have to cut taxes” and/or “cut the fat out of government” because that's what the corporate executives and the politicians they own tell us.

Want to have some fun? Ask one of those lunch room experts to be specific about how another tax cut for the rich will benefit all of America or, even better, to get specific about that “fat” in government.

Where, very precisely, is all that fat that will save us billions of dollars? Demand facts, not right-wing generalizations, but be prepared to duck. They tend to get angry when caught with their ignorance on display.

To some unknown degree, a majority of the American public walks blindly through life because we no longer have a functioning mass news system. We have a mass propaganda system, easily manipulated by the political right and inclined anyway to believe whatever the power elite tells them.

Need an example?

People who regularly read good Internet news sources such as TruthOut, know that the Republicans already have in place a massive system of vote suppression and election fraud which will function powerfully on Nov. 4. But ask your neighbors what they know of that.

You'll find that most of them “know” ACORN is a corrupt organization that has been busy registering fraudulent voters. They don't know that's been disproven time after time. They know nothing of the huge Republican vote suppression efforts in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and other states, and they certainly don't know about the blatant fixing of voting machines to produce Republican election victories in some of those states.

Few of the “mainstream” media have mentioned those facts. The New York Times and McClatchy newspapers do some good reporting, but they're inconsistent, and most dailies and almost all of television are useless for getting a handle on what's really going on in this crumbling country.

CNN tried Thursday, Oct. 23, to report on vote suppression, but it so carefully, and falsely, “balanced” the reports that they gave the impression that the suppression techniques were necessary to stem massive voter fraud – which, in fact, is nonexistant except in swing states where the Republican Party has set up its scams.

We'd have better major news sources if the American public demanded them, but often –- you've heard it many times from co-workers and neighbors -– Americans don't want to know about all the unpleasantness. They're happier with a “news” media that ignores the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the astonishing evils perpetrated in Africa by people who buy American arms.

News like that can spoil one's dinner and take the fun out of watching “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

I have no polls on this in hand, but I'd be willing to bet that a majority of Americans figure the huge bailout of banks and brokerages is necessary to save our economy because the bigshots say so.

I'll give very big odds that only a small minority is aware of the fact that about $25 billion of $125 billion of our tax dollars just turned over to nine big American banks will be used to pay dividends to stockholders of those banks, and that $250 million of that amount will go directly into the pockets of the banks' executives and directors. (Figures from an op-ed piece by David S. Scharfstein and Jeremy C. Stein in the New York Times of Oct. 21.)

This is a fact: We are two countries within a single set of borders and coastlines. The bigger of the two countries is insular, anti-intellectual, uninterested in knowing truths that don't fit its preferred view of the world. Its denizens believe the corporate elite on all major points, even as that elite takes more and more of the wealth and power to itself and systematically disenfranchises most citizens and undermines their futures and the futures of their children.

The wealthiest five percent of the population exports the country's jobs, effectively cuts the pay of workers while expanding their work loads, pays their politicians to see to it that the country's educational system deteriorates. That small group of plutocrats keeps health care beyond the reach of an ever larger portion of the population in order to avoid paying taxes for a real care system. They let the country's infrastructure deteriorate for the same reason, and refuse to do anything about climate change or environmental degradation or oil dependency because there is big money to be made from preserving the status quo.

Meanwhile, the victims who have joined Palin's “real America” are focused on deliberately goosed up issues such as abortion and -– horrors! -- the possibility that gay Americans might be treated simply as citizens. The “real Americans” can grasp such issues, or think they can, without having to think about them. They also have swallowed whole the money elite's constantly touted idea that all taxes are bad.

The smaller country, the educated, the people who seek to understand how things work here and abroad and hope to maintain a semblance of democracy and equality of opportunity...that country is in very deep trouble and may be driven into hiding before long. It is not gladly tolerated by the richest five percent who increasingly own everything worth having within the borders and coastlines of what is called (now ironically) the United States of America.

Don't bite on the blather about “reaching across the aisle,” no matter who's doing the blathering.

The two Americas cannot cooperate in any meaningful way. The far right does not compromise, and it has filled its army of the ignorant with hate; it is like a horde of Genghis Khan's Mongols, intent on destroying all who impede conquest.

Conservatives and progressives, old-style Republicans and Democrats, could compromise. But the decent human beings who once made up the Republican Party are irrelevant now; they exist in an ether, without power or influence.

One side will win, the other will lose and be left as ineffective as today's old Eisenhower Republicans. If the right wins, their opposition may face much, much worse than loss of influence.

A couple of relevant facts:

On Oct. 22, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, supported by 30 countries around the world, released the results of a 20-year study. It found that economic inequality had increased in 27 of the 30 countries over that period. The highest levels of inequality –- more wealth accruing to the already wealthy while poverty increased among the general population -– were in Mexico, Turkey and the United States. The gaps between rich and poor have increased substantially since 2000, the report said. France, which America's right wing politicians love to berate and mock, was one of three countries that showed progress toward greater equality.

Wordsmart, a company that sells vocabulary-improvement home courses, says that from 1950 to the present, the useful vocabulary of the average American teenager dropped from 25,000 to 10,000 words. That's roughly a 60 percent decrease in the number words kids readily recognize and can use. It seems obvious: If you lack the words to describe, analyze, think with, you can't think critically to any real depth. At this rate, Americans will be reduced to “Me Tarzan, you Jane” by 2050.