Monday, February 17, 2020

The Wizard of Oz

Chaos unfolds before our eyes in the Democratic Primary Election campaigns, where adult politicians gather to eat their young. Republicans look on as the man no one wanted grabs their party by the crotch and fires up his base. The age of make-believe is upon us. Fear is in the air as we whistle past the graveyard. 

The Wizard of Oz is in charge.

Meanwhile, the dream of America lies bleeding in the street and no one answers the phone at 911.

In an earlier iteration of America, we used to actually believe in dreams:
(Wikipedia) The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.

But now we’re too fearful to have dreams. Somebody killed off truth when we weren’t looking and dreams require a certain amount of truth to stay alive.

We don’t know who’s to blame for that, any more than we know the thief who broke a window in the basement and stole in during the night to steal our trust. There are rumors: some say Facebook, some blame the print and mass media, some even lay it at our current president’s door.

But that’s foolishness. Twitter doesn’t even have a door.

I make the case that we Americans have always been a bit at each other’s throats. But it was a genteel sort of competitive exercise that called periodic time-outs for gentlemanly (and certainly womanly) conduct.

Now the gloves are truly off and what passes for argument is a slug-fest. Right, left and center hammer at each other until they fall to the floor in bloodied exhaustion—gasping for breath, struggling to their feet to have at it again. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “doesn’t anyone know how to play this political game anymore?”

I know for a fact when the inevitable decline began. The moment Jack Kennedy appeared without a hat, the entire ship-of-state lost its rigging.

You may laugh at that, but the last brick in civilization crumbled when men stopped wearing hats, neckties and opening doors for women. And it’s been a long, slow march toward savagery ever since.

Walter Cronkite was America’s trusted news source and now his confident voice is gone. Walter was relevant because, like Robert Young in Father Knows Best, he never lied to us. He smoked a pipe. Men who smoke pipes don’t lie, they become trusted news anchors, sit-com fathers or psychiatrists.

Now everyone lies or, in the misplaced search for balance and political correctness, allow lies to slide by like an inside pitch and that’s much the same as lying. A presidential spokeswoman (person, whatever) calls that an ‘alternative truth.’ How’s that strike you?

Our current resident of the White House is well past 16,000 authenticated lies, yet only two-thirds through his first term. That’s roughly 14 a day. Every single day. A number of stains soak into the social fabric when that happens.

For one thing, lies allowed become lies accepted—alternative truths, if you want to fall for that double-speak, but it’s unprecedented from an American president. For another, America has always spoken for the world on a number of important political and social issues and now that speech rings hollow.

For yet another, the administration’s consistent inside pitches on what Stephen Colbert calls ‘truthiness’ have not been lost on the world beyond Washington. Coherence in policy, a cornerstone of global stability—the good, the bad and the ignorant remaining consistently good, bad and ignorant—is gone, replaced by a daily barrage of tweets from an unstable source.

Until now, could anyone have possibly foretold a foreign policy delivered on Twitter? Cabinet members hired and fired on social media? Have we sunk so deeply into confusion that a president who defies the constitutional guarantees of government is absolved from abusing those guarantees?

Apparently we have.

And now, with an election on the horizon, we can either become Weimar Germany in 1933 or America in 2020.
It’s that stark a choice.

Pull back the curtain and expose the Wizard or choose to gamble on living in Oz.

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