Monday, June 10, 2013

American Masquerade

I took a shuttle on a shockwave ride,
Where people on the pen pull the trigger for accolades
I took a bullet and I looked inside
Running through my veins an American masquerade

-       The Killers
Sam’s Town

America is an empire in decline, and to deny it means you're not paying attention or are one of the greedy bastards who put us here.  

Hard truth time: We're in the burning Rome phase of our civilization, and it's been on a gradual slide down an offal-caked shaft towards the rotating blades for the last 30 years. Despite the peaks of prosperity and technological innovation, the United States has lost its moral compass and international standing.

We are a society at war with itself.

In those kinds of struggles, there's no clear winner, just piles of corpses and self-righteous slogans.

It’s increasingly difficult to stay positive, to believe mankind is eternally good while only a few narcissistic lunatics grab the headlines. We’re better than the crude knuckle-dragging troglodytes, the reality TV whores and political pimps. Each one of us should strive for something meaningful in our lives instead of the obligatory fame and fortune. 

We want to learn a bit more about this vast mystery called life, while leaving something for future generations.

Looking around me, I cannot help but think somewhere along the line, we faltered. 

Our institutions are systematically failing us: government, media, church, banks. We might as well just throw our hands up and live in the woods, if we didn't already run roughshod with deforestation.

America: if you can exploit it, you can profit from it.

Isn't that what this country is about? Power and money? Penises and greed? Obeying over thinking? Bullshit over facts?

Don't get me wrong. America's freedoms and culture are exemplary. We hold the shining torch to immigrants, offer unbridled opportunity for growth and success and are much more permissive and free than any country on the planet. While other nations have freedom, America has continually excelled and removed barriers to the downtrodden and oppressed.

Yet somewhere we lost our footing. We became so enamored with the big shiny things and puffed ourselves up with quixotic fantasies of postindustrial utopian bliss we forgot who we were. We failed to appreciate our uniqueness, our strength through diversity, our quest to dream and innovate.

We grew frightened, complacent and stupid.

We slipped back into the ugliness of the early 20th Century. Powerful people pushed a dreaded agenda of avarice and the financial sector and politicians worked in tandem to destroy what little savings and security we had. From a republic to a plutocratic oligarchy in one decade.

After 9/11, Congress passed the Patriot Act that gave broad-reaching powers and tools to law enforcement agencies to catch terrorists. America saw a shadowy enemy like no other, and needed to fight a different kind of war. The public agreed to curb their Constitutional rights in order for law enforcement to catch terrorists. Don't ever say Americans haven't made sacrifices in the War on Terror. We allowed our rights to erode to the point where we can be imprisoned without trials and bombed by unmanned drones. If you put George Orwell, Ray Bradbury and Anthony Burgess in the same room, they couldn't dream up a science fiction dystopia as bad as our current political reality.

Government: One for All, All for Themselves

Current American politics is a hybrid of representative government and eBay, where bidders vie for the best puppet to push their interests. Now that the Supreme Court ruled foreign corporations could donate to American candidates, the entire process is a free-for-all, flush with riches moneygrab where lobbyists and private companies have more influence and pull on our legislators than the people.

Anyone in Congress doing the right thing for the right reasons is an aberration. Politics is broken, with fierce partisanship trumping compromise. Democrats and Republicans, each one bought and paid for by their respective interests, continue their loud, embarrassing tirades while ignoring the people's true will.

They can't fix our infrastructure, our education system, our economy or our financial system. Technically, they could fix these things if they work as a collective. They just don't want to.

They rationalize "it's too expensive" or "it's pork barrel spending" or "doing this will make Baby Jesus cry".

Congress is not the white knight rushing to our aid. It's the evil wizard scheming in his dungeon how he can fuck the peasants out of more treasure. 

The Democrats are just too weak-willed and lack the balls to stand up to bullies. They weave this liberal fantasy of togetherness when the wolves are circling outside, and dwell in ignorance as the wolves bash the doors down and tear them to pieces. After Senator Ted Kennedy died, Democrats lost the ability to become forceful innovators of good and champions of the downtrodden and poor. Instead, they sip sangria in their townhomes and cheer to Rachel Maddow and John Stewart, a passive-aggressive way to vent their frustrations.

The Republicans have abandoned reason and logic long ago. Once the party of fiscal responsibility and restraint, they've morphed into a nightmare version of themselves. Touting American exceptionalism, Christianity and xenophobia, the Republican Party today is what Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal admonished as "the stupid party."

Anti-science, anti-intellectual and uncompromising, they've made a pact with Fox News and their corporate masters to push a radical right agenda. The Tea Party, supported by the Koch brothers, are some of the most patriotic people you'd meet, totally dedicated to the Constitution. They're also some of history's biggest dupes. For the Tea Party, President Obama is a Kenya-born, Muslim socialist who wants to shred up the Constitution and indoctrinate your children into gay marriage.

While cowardice reigns in Democratic quarters, madness currently reigns in Republican quarters. Right-wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly drown out any dissent from fellow conservatives. It's either the party line or no line, and the last few conservatives who believe in science and reason have been fed to the flames. You're either with the herd, or you're a RINO. 

Political discourse now isn't debate; it's immature shouting, histrionics and partisan showmanship. It's pointing fingers, sharpening swords and rumor-mongering. Instead of crossing the aisle and working together, Democrats and Republicans have dug their heels and refuse to compromise and find common goals. They see each other not as colleagues or Americans but "wackos", "crazies", "tree-huggers", "secularists", "Bible-thumpers", "nutjobs", "socialists" or worse. 

The Media Sucks

Another institution in crisis is the media. Once revered as watchdogs for the public good and tellers of truth, the Fourth Estate got in bed with big business and became a dysfunctional disaster.

Journalists who once conducted investigative reporting, now are dilettante entertainers and pseudo-actors. The 24-hour cable news networks determine the day's news cycle. Events are reported ad nauseam with little consideration given to objectivity or context. Splashy animation, stirring music and video are prepared in packages fed through the networks, and sensationalism holds sway.

Corporate mainstream news outlets don't present much news. Pundits, talking heads and biased opinions dominate cable news. Networks such as MSNBC, Fox News and CNN are loaded with opinion instead of accounts presented factually. Straight news isn't popular. People need to be told what to think or at least to confirm their beliefs and longstanding prejudices, they figure, so show more pundits.

Americans are more misinformed now than ever, with the news failing to report events in an objective, meaningful way. If reporters had it rough before, they're especially vilified today, and take on the guise of charlatans and corporate tools.

Even honest journalists who see their careers as informing the people and crusading against corruption burn out early. The information age is a relentless bitch, filling our ears and eyes with nonstop sensationalism, celebrity news and violence. The stories we really need to see, investigative stories about the government and news from other countries, seldom receives airtime and is usually delivered in easily digestible soundbites.

Listen to the right wing pundits and politicians and we’re made to distrust the media, the very people paid to inform us. Discredit the messenger, take ownership of the message.

Not that the messengers are doing a stellar job. They're falling over themselves to report the latest human failings, celebrity breakups, spree killings, celebrity couples, war, celebrity arrests, government gridlock, celebrity fighting, economic meltdown, celebrity announcements. So much of our news is dedicated to fluff and bullshit, the real stories are pushed aside. The little real news that squeaks through the gate is often about guns, shootings, social discord and crime.

If you're a regular cable news watcher, you're either numbed from Zoloft or you've hung yourself from a utility cord in the shower. It's beyond depressing. Who's watching the public's interests? Who's telling us what we need to know?

We're purposefully kept in the dark and fed a diet of bullshit celebutantes from the Hollywood idiot machine. Everyone has a publicist, everyone craves publicity. Look at us! We're so self-important!
Meanwhile, in an undisclosed location, your government is up to some really bad shit and lives are at…. Look!

Honey Boo Boo!


American Idol!

We have the attention spans of hyperactive squirrels and that's how the media likes it.

Zero integrity and intelligence. Bimbos and beefcakes. Violence. Sex. Scintillating scandals. Political hackery.

Welcome to the 24-hour news hole, a vortex sucking our collective consciousness.

Religion: God Inc.

If Catholic priests diddling children wasn't bad enough, the church's leaders, instead of excommunicating the offending priests, or turning them over to civil authorities or putting them in the iron maiden or the rack (like the church used to), they're relocated to other parishes.

Imagine if our justice system worked like that. You take a serial killer/pedophile/arsonist who rapes multiple kids, sets them on fire and fucks them. Instead of giving the guy the electric chair or incarcerating him for life, he's put in a truck and driven across the country and set loose in another town with no arrest or trial.

That's what the Catholic Church has done on numerous occasions in numerous countries worldwide.

Get that last part?


As in everywhere. It's not just the Boston Diocese. It's the Catholic Church all over the planet. Church is where children should feel safe, not have their innocence stolen by the very people tasked with protecting them from harm. The Catholic Church is not a religion, it's NAMBLA with collection plates.

If pedophile priests immune to prosecution doesn't make you angry, the rising tide of fundamentalism will. Religion in America isn't a free-for-all anymore. It's a tide sweeping souls toward Protestant megachurches, Biblical cults or movements such as the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members protest military funerals and anything they deem is a threat to America, like homosexuality or liberals.

Instead of spreading the Gospel and preaching tolerance, peace and love, fundamentalists are increasingly politicizing their message. It's Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort arguing creationism must be real because of the banana, (or as they call it "the atheist's nightmare") which Comfort said was created to be gripped and peeled by man. It's the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, a place dedicated to debunking science and learning dinosaurs frolicked with early humans (insert obligatory Flintstones reference here). It's Pat Robertson of the 700 Club saying feminism is a "socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." It's bombing abortion clinics, stockpiling weapons and waiting for the end times or whatever superstitious fire and brimstone rapture prophesy the doom cult leader preaches about on any given week.

I'm all for religious freedom, but these pseudo-Christians ignore the basic tenants of Christianity. This brand of religion turns people into zealots and negates their ability to think for themselves.

They see the devil in everyone and everything: Obama, liberals, homosexuals, unwed mothers, secular progressives, atheists.

If they want to see the devil, they should look in the mirror.

How is this any different from Al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Radical theology inciting violence and hatred. You're not following Jesus anymore. You're just a dick with a chip on your shoulder and your brand of religion rationalizes this shitty behavior.

Throughout history, it wasn't the secularists or rationalists who tortured and persecuted people. It's always the self-righteous church, with its mandate from on high to convert or kill anyone they perceive as obstructionists.

If we believe all of the superstitious hocus-pocus from the church, if we take it all seriously, we give charlatans the power to dictate our lives. Faith is strong, and many people devote their lives to it. But when the faith of a few is placed before the good of the many, mischief and massacres often occur.
It's time to drop the hyperbole and place reason over rhetoric.

The same thing goes for all of the liberal religions, too. America should not be a politically correct amusement park where everyone gets to ride the roller coaster for as long as they want. If you enjoy communing in nature on a yoga mat while in a casting circle, then that's your thing. Burning sage will not cleanse the forest of evil nature spirits any more than Pastor Ted Haggard won't stop guzzling cock or buying crystal methamphetamine.  

Your Sunday morning beliefs are making you look like idiots. Think for yourselves and help the less fortunate. Don't open fire on a Planned Parenthood clinic or bully gay teens.

Remember all of those goofy What Would Jesus Do bracelets the evangelicals wore years ago? Jesus would be appalled by the antics that continue in his name.

So What Have We Learned?

Blogging is like screaming into the void, and this manifesto is part of that muted din, reverberating in an immense echo chamber, undistinguishable and lost in the ear-splitting cacophony. 

I don't care if you're offended, perturbed or inconvenienced by this screed. 

The goal of the writer is to reveal truth, expose corruption and show humanity's striving to better their current conditions. If getting you to see truth means plunging ink-tipped biros through your eyeballs, so be it.

We're in a crisis, people. Apathy, whining and ignorance is not an option.

Get mad.

Do something to make America a better place. Help your community. Teach. Join the service. Volunteer. Anything. Don't let the forces of greed and corruption continue to sully this beautiful land, this idea of America.

We need to be a more compassionate nation, toward each other and towards the world.

Once you lose empathy, you become cold and selfish. Our capacity for doing good for others must outmatch our desire to do only for ourselves.

It is this message of love and tolerance that has outlasted the hatred and tyranny of the past. Americans must - for their own survival and the survival of the country - turn away from things that segregate and separate us and flow towards that which nurtures.

If America is to avoid the ignominious fate of the failed barbarous empires and kingdoms relegated to history, we must improve. Shun bitterness and petty squabbling and unite for solutions on how we as a nation can confront problems and solve them.

History has always been rough, from the Greeks, Romans and Visigoths, up until present day. It’s a bloodbath of lies, exploitation and violence.

Civilizations built on the backs of subjugation and domination. Brutes with swords, holy books and AK-47s. But if you peel back the grimy veneer of history, you see past the wars, genocides and conquests. You see in every era, there were people who said no to the status quo, who remained uncorrupted. They might have been tragic victims, or they might have been catalysts for change, but they made a decision not to let cynicism and madness defeat them. They remained pure and good and helped those in need, sometimes sacrificing their lives to do so.

If we look around today, we see those kind strangers who extend compassionate hands. This is the difference between the good and the bad, between hate and love and fear and resolve. If we’re going to survive on this rock orbiting the Sun, we have to approach kindness and compassion not as a lifestyle choice or trendy alternative, but as an imperative.

We must have the courage to think for ourselves and be kind.

No comments: