Monday, March 11, 2019

When American Moral Codes Die, Democracy Ain’t Far Behind

“We may have democracy in this country, or we may have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
- Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis

C’mon, Jim, there’s always been a gap in human morality. Back in those good old days of the 1950s through 70s you keep harping about, we had good guys and bad guys then as well.

Yeah, the other side of my brain replies, but we mostly fought off those intruders by laws or strikes or civil disobedience. And now all that seems in the past and, am I wrong, or do we celebrate getting ours first as some kind of mantra?

The unions have been all but killed off. The laws, all the way to the Supreme Court, favor the monied crowd that paid off Congress to advantage them. Civil disobedience, when it even shows its face is a march here or there that quickly fades in the news-cycle. We used to have push-back, but now no one gives a shit.

My god, Jim. Get a grip. What are you, an evangelist?

Not at all. I’m not interested in beating a dead horse. But I’m confused. Who beat that poor old nag to death and why did it die in the street? Your street, my street, our street.

One after another, politicians promise change, without even defining it. But by god we gotta have it and we usually vote to get it. Obama was going to make America fairer and Trump promises to make it great again. What the hell does that even mean? Obama left us as unfair as before he got elected and Trump seems dead-set on making us a laughingstock across the world.

And that old dead horse just lies there, drawing flies. It’s not moral to leave an animal dead in the street and just walk by, holding our nose. So I guess that’s what I’m driving at. Is that horse our national morality?

That’s a stretch as metaphor, Jim. Even for you.

Maybe, but here’s my take on it. Those civil disobediences, I mentioned. They’re usually about a march for women’s rights or gay rights, abortion rights or the right to be left the hell alone by social media. Those are moral issues, right?

Yeah, so what’s your beef?

My beef is that they don’t go far enough or deep enough to keep us from sliding off into chaos. Where is the real anger in the streets?

Barack Obama is gone and the money guys still pay off Congress, the drug war is a disaster, the homeless still clog the major cities, jobs and infrastructure are collapsing and we can’t even agree on climate issues, much less do anything about them.

In two (or six) years Donald Trump will be gone and every single change he promised to get elected will remain unchanged.

Republican or Democrat, forty years of slow and deadly moral decline has left the American-on-the-street, liberal or conservative, lied to, shamed, bull-shitted and helpless. Except for the super-rich. They’re doing just fine. They’re a very small minority that has entirely taken over majority rule in a nation that prides itself on being a democratic republic.

You sound like a guy who’s just pissed off that he’s not rich.

Well I’m not rich, that’s a fact.

But when everyone else saw Trump’s election as a one-off mistake,  saw it as a long held back roar from the angry. If you look at Trump’s and Bernie Sander’s base voter, they are nearly identical. Both groups, and they are the super-majority, responded to the identical message—only Bernie wasn’t on the ticket.

Both sides (except the 10%) were raging with fear. Job loss, potholes, homeless, health care, retirement, wildfires, floods, hurricanes, shitty schools, guns, debt, endless wars we don’t win, crooked politicians—you name it, they’d all caught the same disease and no cure was in sight. Hillary thought she was robbed and I thought the left-behind in both parties had finally had enough.

In my more optimistic moments, I thought perhaps a lesson had been learned by both parties. I hoped so. Perhaps it has, the mid-term elections are but one more example of the worm turning.

But after Trump leaves office, with his base frustrated once again, we may have civil disobedience with more than flags and banners. You and I will be horrified, but I will not be surprised to see cars overturned, buildings set afire, shots fired and people, rather than horses, dead in the streets and drawing flies.

What we see in Washington right now is young Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being mocked and Mitch McConnell smirking and deciding which proposals are allowed to come to a Senate vote. And the media eats it up. Where is the morality in that? 

Where has the Constitution’s balance of powers gone when morality isn’t even in the room?

I thought the Trump election would shine a spotlight on where and why and for how long our immoral political system had failed us as a nation. I still harbor that hope, but the long dead horse is still out there, stinking in the street.

And the odds are moving very quickly against us every single day.

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