Friday, May 09, 2008

It once was...

(Some time ago I would have published this on the Great Orange Obama. I would have felt that I was communicating this diary about a feeling to people who would listen, consider, take it in to the online community, and slowly reel it back out in their comments and other diaries. And sometimes I would see the ripples of thought spreading out...I miss the gathering of minds, the sharing of moments. It's different writing to no one in particular because writing to an audience, you know that someone is hearing and you want to carefully consider how you affect someone's day. Another day, they will affect yours. But now Orangeland is filled with koolaid drinkers who give no thought to affect at all...)

I may not be one of those prolific, prescient bloggers like digby or daily howler who can point to their archives to show how they saw it coming and they were right. Probably, I didn't blog about it, but I'm sure I told my husband. In one ear...

What was there to predict? Our self-destruction. Or you might call it our spiral into laziness. Some morning, maybe more than one morning, I remember talking over coffee about how things aren't invented in the US much anymore. The new ideas, the breakthroughs come from foreign countries - sometimes from expat Americans who have moved there to find a place where research is supported.

This little snip from a BBC article this morning I found near the end of the story - where the insignificant bits go. Most people skim over news articles, reading only the first couple paragraphs and then move on to the next item. What a writer chooses to fill out a story with toward the bottom is the known, the not-new, the details that flesh out the argument. So, at the end of a story about US airline delays, this reporter casually mentions the obvious.

Like much of America these days, the airline industry feels tired, worn down, and old. That is surprising in a country that often likes to think of itself as the best. Arguably, it once was, but the airline industry - like the health system, like schools, roads - you name it, feels like it is just creaking along...

Obviously, we're not the best. We certainly thought we were, true or not. Now, Americans are content not to be. Of course airplanes are late and not well maintained. Of course bridges fall into the river. Of course freeways are overcrowded and filled with potholes. Of course health care is too expensive and inaccessible for some of our citizens. Of course we'd better look for private schoools for our children because the public system is rotting from the inside out. We just shrug our shoulders, look away. There's nothing we can do about it.

And that resigned attitude is what slowly erodes us into second rate status. The wearing away of our souls over the last 8 years has begun to destroy the very face we show to the world. It's clear to the casual observer that apathy is rampant and ruining what we had, let alone our drive to create the new and better - you know, all those notions about U-S-A being number one. Our president shrugs his inadequate leader-of-the-free world shoulders and says 'I wish I had a magic wand.' If he can't do anything about fixing our problems, we shrug too - what can we do? The government of the last 8 years has encouraged us all to feel powerless and adrift. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer and oh well, it's all inevitable. We unwashed need to just carry on, don't complain as we slide down the slope into thinking that the way things are - the economy, the wars, the crumbling infrastructure - is just inevitable.

Apparently our thinking is so lazy that we believe it. And we turn our heads away towards media narratives that deny the obvious, prop up our self-satisfaction, and lull us with tales of patriotism and reverence for what we used to be, pretending that it still exists - that what our parents built for us will continue on with no effort from us. Oh well - it must never have been better than it is now. That's just someone looking at the past with rose colored glasses. The truth must be that the middle class was never really better off then they are now, that government never did anything well, that all wars were really wars of choice. We blithely buy in to a myth that paints the innovation which created our past with the dusty beige apathy of today.

So we vote for people with platitudes and feel good aphorisms. And then we shrug our shoulders when the promises of our newly elected leaders don't come true. Well, it turns out there was nothing we could do and certainly, nothing they could do. We vilify our party or our leaders and we smugly feel secure when they fail us again because after all, nothing changes. We wallow in our laziness of thought.