Monday, January 19, 2004

Fear and loathing in the USA

I have a confession to make: I am not strong enough to handle this world. I've been walking around in a sort of stunned confusion for more than 20 years now, unable to come to terms with the hatred and anger I've seen. Anne-Marie tells me it's post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a reasonable diagnosis given how fucked up my life was when I was young.

Regardless of the cause, the end result is that I have this grim sense of certainty that everything is going to go bad in a big way. And that's how I feel when the world is reasonably calm. When everything gets crazy, like it is now, I usually get pretty depressed, overcome with dread. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out if there's anywhere left on the planet for people who just want to be left alone... and so far the only piece of land I've seen that would give me some peace of mind is a small grassy spot just large enough for a grave.

Is there a word for irony to the point of hyperbole? I can't figure out why people seem to thrive on conflict, clinging fiercely to mental constructs that seem to exist for the sole purpose of creating and maintaining hatred. I've never been very good with the 'issues', because usually both 'sides' seem absurd; often, the very concept of 'sides' seems absurd. If I do identify with a particular side, they are almost always the side I perceive to be more inclusive, less divisive.

Lately I don't know where to turn... everyone seems so polarized, and while I can clearly identify points of view I do not wish to be associated with, I'm having a bit more trouble identifying ideas I support. It seems to me that there is a great madness in this country, a sickness and hatred that is eating the nation from the inside. But the people who claim to oppose this act as though that sickness is nothing more than a call for them to assert their own sickness. It seems like there have been weekly revelations of the perfidy of BushCo, any one of which should fill Americans who actually have any belief in the potential goodness of our country with shame, yet the democrats don't seem to be moved by the dishonor they are inheriting from the government, they just want more soundbites for their commercials.

I spend a lot of time looking at websites, and I am often struck by how nearly universally our 'freedom of speech' is only used to express hatred or scorn. Even among the actual 'press', there has been a profound tilt to the right, but the voices of individual Americans, heard through blogs and personal websites, seem to have gone so far to the right that the John Birch Society look like tree-hugging hippies in comparison. My own rants generate a fair bit of hate mail, which always surprises me... why would anyone take the time to write me over a difference of opinion? Are we no longer free to have opinions that differ from the consensus narrative?

Today while browsing I did find one site that was reasonably sane... although I found it mentioned on a page that suggested the author be tried for treason for suggesting that Bush was forewarned about Al-Queda but did nothing (an assertion that has been confirmed by a number of people in and out of the administration).

George W. Bush is going to run in 2004 on the idea that his administration is the only one capable of protecting us from another attack like the ones which took place on September 11. Yet the record to date is clear. Not only did they fail in spectacular fashion to deal with those first threats, not only has their reaction caused us to be less safe, not only have they failed to sufficiently bolster our defenses, but they used the aftermath of the attacks to ram through policies they couldn't have dreamed of achieving on September 10. It is one of the most remarkable turnabouts in American political history: Never before has an administration used so grisly a personal failure to such excellent effect.

One other site said "Our Elected Dictator President has wielded his executive power with abandon, threatening to destroy the very delicate checks and balances of our constitutional system"... and they were talking about Clinton. This is indicative of the strong correlation between hatred and irrationality that allows, for instance, conservatives to continue babbling about 'smaller federal government and more fiscal responsibility', when under their lead we've set historical records for distance from both of those ideals.

As I have said, I don't know what other people are thinking. I don't understand what drives them. But this continued use of rhetoric and propaganda, and the decoupling of words from their meanings, has led me to believe that most people don't actually believe the things they claim so forcefully to believe (how could they, when they are so nonsensical?)... they merely cling to whatever platform best allows them to express their hatred and prejudice. This practice is so commonplace that it is what comes to mind when I hear the words "the American way".