The forces of ignorance, greed, and stupidity, long bubbling just below the surface of American politics, finally erupted this month in a viscous flume of bullshit so dense that it coated everything it touched. The stench will likely linger for years. I speak, of course, of the great budget debate of 2011.
For years, the American political dialogue has been littered with shabby cranks, kooks, know-nothings, and scam artists, shouting over one another on radio talk shows, in letters-to-the-editor, at the end of the bar, and now on internet blogs, each “opinion” more witless than the last, in a cacophonous dim of utter nonsense. The difference now is that the same kooks and know-nothings, admittedly with better haircuts and nicer suits, have wormed their way into our government.
Much has been written and said in the past several days about “hostage taking” and “ransom”, about how President Obama “capitulated” to the teabaggers in Washington, about spineless Democrats and greed-mongering Republicans, and while mostly accurate, it misses the big picture: We the people put these shitheads in office. They are, whether we’d like to admit it or not, a reflection of us and it’s not a pretty image. Just when did the crazy uncle pry himself away from the primordial ooze, climb the basement stairs, and find himself in a position of power? When we voted for him, or worse yet, when we were too busy to vote for the other guy.
Our national dialogue has been reduced to imbicilic sloganeering, about returning to the gold standard, about “socialism” and “liberty”, about the free marketplace and the founding fathers, about international cabals and conspiracies and “elites” and things that go bump in the night, all annotated with misspelled words crayon-scrawled on a placard. And that placard is clutched in the hands of a man standing in front of a court house screaming his demand to remove Washington from the dollar bill and replace him with a picture of Jesus.
That the tea party is being manipulated by corporate interest is beside the point. That most of us were too busy amusing ourselves and did nothing to stop it before it was too late is the point.
The reality of American society is not our “exceptionalism”, it’s our ignorance, our laziness, and our obliviousness. We all saw this train wreck coming, and while some welcomed it in the name of some moronic ideology, the rest of us merely averted our eyes and hustled quickly from the accident scene for fear of being called as a witness. Shame on us for letting this happen.