The founders of the modern democratic republic of America were, as one, very precise and rational in what they wished to accomplish. They wanted a society free of government oppression and overly burdensome taxation, one that advanced safety and well-being of individual citizens: the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".
Later, when the country was wrapped up in military conflict all around the planet, America, the institution, was humanized under the stern but fatherly projection of "Uncle Sam", who impelled a great many young men to enlist in the military to express American unity and patriotic goodness through power in the battlefields. Back home, women were also enlisted to build the guns and bombs that were the tools of might for the fighting men.
Today, Uncle Sam, as the humanized institution America, is going bonkers. If we take the workings of Congress as the brainpower that articulates how this giant creature behaves, with the Presidency as the cerebral cortex, then we see that the creature is foaming at the mouth and spitting a great deal of anger.
No longer is the drive of "citizen well-being" a foundational moral value.
Rather, it has been supplanted with a kind of mean spirited, manipulative, power-grabbing partisanship that sees public officials acting, not for the public good, but for personal persistence in office. They work to win. Personally.
They don't use the sum and substance of their acts as the basis for gaining re-election. They use deceit and spin and smoke and mirrors.
I've written numerous times about how governance in the US has become dysfunctional because of the ease of sound bite manipulations in the modern world of news as entertainment and social networks as a medium of nonsense as profound wisdom.
The following article published by Associated Press calls the dysfunction "gridlock" and expands upon the reasons for the contentious workings of Congress: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_CONGRESS_GRIDLOCK_WHY?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
The writers identify the following four contributors to gridlock, reframed in my words:
- In 1994 there was a Republican revolution (under the directorship of Newt Gingrich) that placed prominence of the party ahead of public good. Efforts to compromise ended; efforts to win intensified.
- Cultural change. Legislators spend less time in Washington and more time locally. The media have changed, too. Opinionated news and blogging "inflame partisanship."
- Unrestrained use of partisan tools. The filibuster and other techniques of achieving dominance became the operational standard within Congress. Each side pulls the tricks the other side did when they were running things; each side criticizes the other's use of these tricks.
- New campaign laws have encouraged a flow of money to extreme elements of the respective parties and the radicals have used that money to buy influence.
In the interest of being succinct, I condense these four qualities to characterize Uncle Sam today as contentious, irrational, hypocritical and greedy.
That is the New America. Contentious, irrational, hypocritical and greedy.
The collegial old boy network of congressional wheeling and dealing has dissolved into an angry pack of back-biting, self-serving hyenas.
The notion of giving, of civic responsibility, of the honor of being truthful, the courage of candor . . . history.
And I don't know how it will cure itself given that anger is like a snowball rolling downhill. It grows until it hits something and explodes. It nearly pushed the world off the economic cliff during the recent debt negotiation.
The next national election in 2012 will be down and dirty, bloody. It ought to do a lot to build ratings at Fox and MSNBC.
It's bad, folks. It's really, really bad.
Forget pursuit of happiness.
Go to survival mode.
Move to the Philippines and hunker down. Bask in the typhoons and suck on coconut juice whilst Washington rots.