Bye, bye, Miss American Pie

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie

(A version of this article was published in Blogcritics on August, 2009)

I

The 2008 presidential election was won on the “hope & change” slogan, and thus far, the prediction has been half-right.

I can’t address the hope aspect because one person’s hope may be another’s nightmare but change it certainly was. And its consequences, whether intended or not, are far from clear or assessable at this early stage. What is abundantly clear, however, we’re at the crossroads. And how we act in the present, the kind of decisions we make, will affect our future and that of the world at large.

II

It’s refreshing to see that some of us recognize the momentous times in which we live and have made it a point to address this and no other issue. I think it’s far more beneficial in our troubled times than addressing the pros and cons of this or that particular piece of legislation, the details of it all, be it health care or the stimulus package or cash-for-clunkers.

Kudos to Philip F. Harris for his timely article, “200 Days.” May you start a precedent! In particular, I take comfort from the closing lines of Mr. Harris’s well-balanced piece: 

Our nation and our planet is [sic] at the edge. The decisions we make now will determine if we rise or fall. The real issue is not [that] have we passed programs in 200 days, it is that we are trying to solve the issues and not hide them in some CIA vault. The remaining problem is that we cannot talk about solutions forever. Decisions must be made now. We know that the ways of the past were a failure. Politicians from both sides of the aisle must now come together and decide. If Obama fails, we all fail!

III

In that spirit, let me pick up the baton and carry the discussion through its third leg. I wish to address specific systemic changes, which I deem necessary if we are to survive as a nation, let alone the presumptive leader of the world. It’s a three-prong approach, as it were, political, economic, and moral, and reforms in each of these areas are long overdue.

I’ll restrict my politics-related comments to two issues: campaign finance reform and term limits. It’s high time to break up the Washington crowd to free it from all suspicion of being beholden to private interests. The sphere of political decision-making must be made distinct from economic decisions because it’s a higher call. At the very least, the former mustn’t be tainted.

IV

Limiting House and Senate seats to one term only, two at most, would go a long way toward that end. You can hear the usual objections: “It takes time to become an expert and a member of an important committee, blah, blah, blah.” 

Utter nonsense! It’s not expertise that’s needed in Washington, D.C. but better judgment, and you can’t learn that by putting in your time. We don’t want technocrats in charge of our nation’s future but ordinary women and men – representatives of The People.

Campaign finance reform is the other side of the coin. Setting caps on the candidates’ spending in their election or re-election efforts — the same for everyone, without exception — is an integral part of the healing process, reinstating faith in our politicians. The networks and cable channels should do their bit in providing equal time to candidates running for office, pro bono, as part of public service. All media, in fact, aside from being privately-owned, commercial enterprises, must be made to discharge their duty — to inform the public. They must be made aware that with the privilege of an FCC license, there comes a responsibility.

V

On the economic front, we’ve got to abandon the adversarial model — of (big) business versus the government – a model which for far too long has dominated our thinking. By definition, any such model can only lead to virulent opposition between the two entities or collusion. Neither alternative is acceptable. It’s far better to use the carrot approach ( e.g., incentives & tax credits) to accomplish the desired results – which means a more cooperative model of negotiating the differences.

As part of the program, we should encourage all manner of cooperative ventures — as between the employers and employees, or the owners and consumers — after the fashion of supermarket cooperatives in the seventies or credit unions. There is plenty of room for experimentation here — of populating our stagnated business model with hybrid entities. The government ought to take the lead in encouraging the formation of all such. 

Far too much attention has been given to multinationals. It’s small- and mid-size businesses that are the mainstay of our economy, the largest employer in fact, and they should be encouraged. It’s mainly from this quarter, small to mid-size firms, let’s face it, that all the creativity and innovation originate. Let’s never forget it.

VI

Along the moral dimension, I’ve already spoken of “the moral equivalence (or worthiness) of persons” — the theory of (human) rights, which is quickly becoming the focus of modern political theory and the basis of all right-headed, ethical thinking.  

At present, this theory is limited to nation-states, resulting thus in re-inventing the good old concept of “the public good.” The current healthcare proposal, regardless of its intended or unintended consequences, is a case in point. But soon, mark my words, this torch will be passed along, and it will spread beyond its present boundaries to include the world at large. And so will the concept of the public good, to encompass every creature, large or small, all part of the same global village. It’s only a matter of time.

Will this lead to a realignment of our political realities and the shifting of our allegiances? To making strange bedfellows and altering the composition within the existing power structures? 

You bet! The human rights concept, and the corresponding notion of universal justice, are too comprehensive to be contained by the boundaries of a nation-state, any nation-state, for any such application is bound to be constricting for being parochial: the whole world, all peoples, all nation-states, in fact, every individual, are the proper stage.

VII

So yes, the days of the United States as a sovereign nation are limited – if not in this generation, then the next. We’ve grown too big for our breeches to contain an idea that will drive our future and shape the world to come until it reaches a new equilibrium point under a brand-new configuration.

I am indeed talking about the New World Order, a confederation of nation-states, a “brave new world,” some have called it, and with great misgivings, I might add. 

Well, it’s bound to be better than the present, characterized as it is by misguided national loyalties and internal squabbles, the pettiness of it all. We’re all capable of a better future, and it shall be ours — with America’s help of without. Probably without, or despite her, I should say, because her people are the greatest obstacle, or so it seems, to human progress. Ultimately, it won’t matter because America won’t matter.

VIII

On what do I base these predictions? Simply the fact that we’re undergoing the greatest populist revolution in this country’s history. Obama has been “the peoples’ choice,” no ifs, ands or buts. And what has been the reaction? 

He’s been fought tooth and nail on practically every single issue. On every program, every legislative proposal, he’s been declared dead-wrong on arrival. There’s nothing right that the fellow can do, not even in his sleep. I’ll be the first to say that yes, much of what had transpired in the first two hundred days of the new administration can be criticized, but come on . . .

Again, the present controversy concerning health care, the House version, is a case in point. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, the disruptive atmosphere pervading nearly every town-hall meeting devoted to clarifying and discussing the issue, despite the lack of preparation on the part of the congresspersons who are supposed to know better, I have but one comment to make: it’s been a disgrace.

IX

I know that some have and will call it the reigniting of the American spirit, the radicalization of the silent majority, the reawakening on the part of the forgotten white male, once so prominent in laying America’s foundation and now, all so neglected and made dispensable, the call for freedom and liberty on the part of Everyman. And they’ll regard it as the most significant happening since the War of Independence — so sweet the sound.

Well, I have a different take. Once more, we’re witnessing the great unwashed masses subjected to politics of fear. 

Indeed, it’s no different than, when under the auspices of “The War on Terror,” most Americans have been more than willing to give up some of their rights under the Patriot Act. This time, however, it’s the government that represents the greatest menace by way of “death-panels,” rationing healthcare, and whatnot. 

And in the name of what?

To insure all those who, because of their circumstance or the vagaries of the private insurance market, have been left in the cold? Or possibly, to reduce the overall medical costs when the uninsured check in the emergency rooms and, while not denied treatment, contribute more than heftily to everyone’s insurance costs?

X

And yet, the propaganda continues. And it falls on the receptive ears of our seniors — the old farts who have no sympathy whatever for anyone but themselves, a privileged class which has never experienced a setback while America was still believable and going strong, the old and dying remnant which knows nothing of solidarity or class-consciousness, of the common lot uniting all peoples of every color, creed, and ethnic background, be they Americans or of any other origin. And why? Because they never had to! And so, their only concern is their entitlements, screw everybody else.

What a sorry state of affairs to be concerned only with number one? What a legacy for a nation that bills itself as the land of the free and the brave? 

XI

Do you want my honest opinion? We don’t deserve to survive. And we won’t if this continues. What we’re seeing is a nation disintegrating before our very eyes, falling apart at the seams, while its people think nothing of it. The public good is the furthest thing from their mind. 

The spirit is all but gone — the spirit of humanity and common destiny, of human decency and all the values that make us thinking sentient beings.

I’m ashamed to be an American!

For over fifty years and counting, I’ve had a love affair with the USA — a passionate love affair. For all her faults, I kept on believing in her, for she represented a promise, a bright future never realized before, the hope of humankind. No longer! This is the last draw. I have nothing in common with these people. They’re not my people anymore, and it’s no longer my country. All allegiances are broken.

XII

Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. You had your chance, your golden opportunity, but you squandered it. The world will go on, with you or without you, and so will humanity’s march toward a better tomorrow.

You’re history!

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