Saturday, October 15, 2016

What is it about this election?

The following article was published in 
The Concord Monitor, 10/12/16

What is it about this election? 
  I feel repulsed like I’m viewing an explicit, sadomasochistic movie, yet I can’t tear myself away because I want so much to see what happens next.

I’m both ashamed of my country and myself. Rather than energizing me to vote, this campaign makes me feel like taking a shower.

In an attempt to escape the campaign pollution, I find myself reminiscing back to long ago days, starting with the presidential campaign of 1962 when I was a junior at Pittsfield high school.

While ethics and decency weren’t always on full display in the heat of this campaign between Nixon and Kennedy, the legitimate nature of government itself was never in question.  

It was an idealistic time to grow up. We were lifted up and empowered when JFK won the election and took his challenge seriously: “It is not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”

We felt an integral part of our larger community – the United States of America – bound together by an interlocking web of rights and responsibilities. We believed wholeheartedly in the legitimacy of our government; trusted the mainstream media – think Walter Cronkite; and looked up to the professionals who served us: our teachers, doctors, and scientists.

Perhaps, we trusted too much. Soon, however, fast moving events would challenge our naivety.

After serving in Vietnam and seeing first-hand how wrong this war was, I returned to UNH, joining with fellow students in protest:  Just because we were a super power didn’t give us the right to unjustly invade third world countries who disagreed with us.

As this façade collapsed that we were the world’s policeman, we challenged other assumptions about how we could do no wrong, uncovering a dark underbelly: our systematic oppression of blacks, minorities, and woman, along with the rape of our Earth.

At this point, strangely enough, I was never so proud of our country: Despite the chaos of those times and Nixon’s strident call for law and order, we did not hide our dirty laundry under the bed: Rather, we came together as a nation to pass landmark civil rights legislation; to elevate woman and minority rights to the top of the agenda; to pass game-changing laws protect the environment, and initiate a massive war on poverty.

And, on top of that – as an acid test for the legitimacy of our government – both democrats and republicans came together as one to impeach a “crooked president.”

At that time in our history and with good reason, I was incredibly hopeful about our future as a nation. I saw my beloved country like a patriarchal family who had gone through dysfunctional times, but who now were finally able to admit its flaws – and become more open, equal, and democratic. At long last, we were making apologies, asking forgiveness, making positive changes, becoming closer again, – ready once again to move forward together.

But now, sadly, looking backwards of the last 35 years, we can see it didn’t happen.  Instead, rearguard forces dug in their heels and started a guerilla campaign to reverse that gains of the 1960s and 1970s.

This conservative backlash has worked to roll back the progress we made in addressing military adventurism along with racial, gender, and environmental oppression. Worse yet, in terms of the thrust of this essay, this backlash has attacked the very idea of government itself.

I’m thinking of President Reagan who said in his 1981 inaugural address: “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

I’m thinking of Glover Norquist, supported by 95% of Republicans running for office in 2012, who made his real objective clear back in 2001: I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

The counterattack goes beyond attacking the very idea of government to subvert the sacrosanct rules of our political life. I’m thinking of right-wing groups in 2014, who with the help of Fox News, spread demeaning falsehoods about a decorated war hero—in this case, John Kerry.

Now in 2016, Trump has done it again to John McCain. Another example is thebirther” movement, driven in large part by Donald Trump, attacking the legitimacy of our first black president – to say nothing of Trump’s attack on minorities, the disabled, Muslims, and let’s not even talk about his views on women!

But don’t be fooled: Donald Trump is not an outlier but the natural endgame of the far right’s campaign against democracy and its relentless opposition to any government action that fosters community and the public good.

It is time to stand up and be counted.

The reactionary forces, who have long been serially assaulting our vulnerable Fair Maiden of Democracy are now preparing for their final act. Glover Norquist has Her starved and subdued, trussed inside his bathtub, awaiting Donald Trump to arrive triumphantly to have his way with her.

Time is growing short.

We have a crucial choice to make, articulated perfectly in a recent essay by Adam Haslett: Donald Trump, a would-be tyrant, is a creature born of our already withered public life. He is neither an anomaly nor the end of his kind. We either find a way to acknowledge together what we suffer in common, or we live in his world.[i]

I’m hoping the X-rated video of Trump released last Friday will be the breaking point, causing us to finally rise up – as one people – to defend the sacred honor of the one who has always made our country great, our Fair Maiden of Democracy.

May God have mercy upon us.

[i] The above quote comes from The Nation, 10/24/16, Donald Trump, Shamer in Chief  by Adam Haslett. 

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