Monday, December 7, 2009

Meanwhile, We're Still at War

Oooh did you hear about Tiger Woods and his bevy of mistresses?

How is this news? Are they actually teaching journalism students in school today that this passes as actual journalism? The mantra used to be "if it bleeds, it leads". No more, apparently.

As a nation we have allowed ourselves to become obsessed with the trivial, the inconsequential, and the meaningless. Celebrity has become the new religion, and the faithful masses partake in the weekly sacraments of Us and People magazines, while blinding themselves to issues that actually affect them.

Healthcare legislation that will potentially affect most Americans (should it actually pass) is currently being bandied about by pompous Senators and Representatives who seem more concerned with representing the interests of Big Insurance than they are in representing us. Our President, just a few short years after taking President Bush to task for his Iraq "surge", has opted to commit 30,000 of our brothers and sisters into the meat grinder of Afghanistan, collectively known as the "graveyard of empires".

And that's what we've become - an empire. Long gone are the days of the American Republic, if in fact it ever existed at all. Our history as a nation is marked by wars and the usurpation of land by indigenous tribes. "I've got the pistols, so I get the pesos", sing the Refreshments in their song "Banditos", and we may as well replace In God We Trust with that little bit of truth. It represents us as a nation better than any religious platitude ever could.

And as is the case with all empires, we become so concerned with the borders of our empire, with "national security" as it is referred to these days, that we are content to ignore the goings-on within the borders. That is, unless is involves awards shows, reality TV, or celebrity shenanigans. It has been argued that we have more people willing to vote for the next American Idol than for the next American President. It is telling that we elevate Sarah Palin to the echelon of Influential Political Voices in America: she is as clueless and seemingly proud of it as her constituency. We are a nation that traded our library cards for Blockbuster cards. We are content to be stupefied by the latest Blu-Ray bread and circus, and less inclined to leave the house to broaden our horizons.

In the times of the Romans, we can mark off the beginning of the end with the advent of "Bread and Circuses". The government supplied free bread to the starving citizenry, and promoted bloody gladiatorial displays. Chariot races and foreign conquests (along with that free carb-heavy diet) kept the mouth-breathers in line while the Caesars and senators partied away around the vomitoriums. And in the end, the barbarians who were long-dismissed as no real threats sacked Rome and slaughtered its inhabitants.

I say it is time for us as Americans to try rousing ourselves from our own carb-heavy stupors, turn off the UFC pay per views, put down the celebrity magazines and look at the empire we live in. I mean, REALLY look at it. How is our healthcare system, compared to other countries'? How is our educational system? Can you name your local representative? When you receive a jury duty summons, are you more concerned with how to get out of it than you are with how to serve your community?

I fear the end is near, gentle pilgrims, and I say that because if there is to be a solution, it will come not from Washington but from us. And that does not fill me with hope.