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Tuesday, February 24, 2004


There comes a point in the evolution of a country where the anachronistic practices and policies which govern the people are no longer pertinent. The entangling jungle of legislation has grown so dense, that navigating the corridors is no longer possible, except by the most enterprising and educated of individuals. The reformation of the institutions of the land have been built on the ruins of so many past incarnations that the foundation now trembles, and the patchwork solutions which have so far prevented disaster threaten to tear and crack at the edges. Our Republic is crumbling.

We currently live in a society where nearly ten percent of all adults suffer from chronic depression in a given year, and around five percent of women will develop either bulimia or anorexia in their lifetime. A majority of people currently living will, at some point in their life, need to be medicated in order to make it through the day. Thirty thousand people killed themselves last year. The number of children who either develop chronic disorders as a result of nontreatment is staggering - and not helped by the fact that ten percent of children under eighteen are uninsured, including seventy-five percent of children classified as "poor" and fifty-three percent of children just above the poverty line. These are real problems. These are plagues upon a people, and things which a morally cognizant person ought to find repugnant to the extreme.

Yet, despite the myriad of problems facing us as a country, what are the issues which command the attention of our leaders? We chase ghosts through the corridors of power, snatching at a dictator here and there in an effort to effect 'justice' in the world - yet we shrug our collective shoulders when there is a lack of admonishment towards individuals within our own country who defrauded retirees out of tens of millions of dollars. Our attention spans are taxed by the intricacies of insider trading, leaving the preferable black-and-white rhetoric of fighting a war against evil. Africa is in shambles as a direct result of the colonization and exploitation of the continent, yet the debate centers on whether or not it's okay to hand out condoms. The structure of our healthcare system incentives insurance companies to litigate claims instead of paying them, because it's been shown to be less expensive - yet reproductive rights take front and center. People are being killed by the fast food industry, as our immune systems give way to viruses bred in the muck of the slaughterhouse - but the FDA delicately weighs the relative merit of another pill to give men erections.

What we seem to lack in large measure is perspective. The foundation of our collective edifice rots, while we fret over whether the drapes match the proverbial sofa. We've become so jaded to poverty, failing schools, and violent crime that they've faded to the periphery. An entertainment culture, the problems which we find of paramount importance are those of gay marriage, and whether or not the president skipped out of National Guard duty. The discourse over the impending election is diluted into ten-word answers, and thirty second sound bytes. We want simple solutions to incredibly complex problems, and are afraid to admit when we don't understand something.

The aggregate of this is the piece mail construction of social initiatives. Scholastic theory which predates the First World War, changed every decade to accommodate the new fad in child rearing. Afraid to start over from scratch, we continue to hope that, despite the utter failure it's been so far, just another test, or just another federal statute, will change it. Our foreign policy is predicated upon a mode of thinking which is transparently outdated. The whole thing is symptomatic of a desperation to believe that our system is maybe just misunderstood and misapplied, and not misconceived.

There's a desperation in all of this which is really kind of sweet. The raw, dogmatic faith of a religious zealot who willfully misinterprets reports that, despite appearances, the world is, in fact, round. Our system isn't working, yet we're doing everything possible to distract ourselves from that inevitable conclusion. Something is broken. That much is clear. The only question is how much longer we can go pretending otherwise before we're forced to choose between fixing it, or suffering the shock of a revolution.

Not of the type which redraws boundaries or includes tanks in the streets. A quieter one. While we’re off prosecuting Oscar Wilde, our empire will slowly fall out from beneath us. Bit by bit, our ‘superpower’ status will simply fade away as new leaders come to the forefront. The thing which allowed us a period of greatness was that we, for a brief period, were the ones who could stand on principle. Whether or not we lived up to the ideals we espoused is another question altogether – but at least we had the ostensible moral high ground. We’ve lost that. Now, in a last attempt to inflict ourselves upon the world, we’ve gone on a crusade to maintain relevance. The world isn’t buying it.

We’ll continue to decline. We’ll continue to make our exit, gracefully or not, unless we can rework the system from the ground up. But the first step is admitting that we’re wrong. The first step is getting beyond our stubborn willfulness. And it seems as if it’s a first step nobody is willing to make.

cranked out at 2:39 AM | |

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