The hypothetical citizen became an excellent political animal. He had been roped to it reluctantly but once he got his sealegs he relished rolling in the trough with all the other swine. Previous to his conversion to a political animal he had been a simple brain lit up with fantastic scenarios of perfection all calculated to save the world from itself. Now, unfortunately, he had outlived this youthful phase and surrendered to the initiation that had him pulled through the mud and shit of political density by howling, yelping, scorning, pathetic animals he vaguely recognized as fellow citizens.
His one out was a clear and clean identity with the organizing principles and some philosophical meditations on the discovery of freedom in the self.
He had carried with him a naive belief that a liberal, democratic people would continually throw up failed, weak leadership at a time when the public sector was in disgrace but always connect to the core of a free and vital life. He never expected the fury and doggedness of poor leadership, it's variety as it shucked off the sentience of the idea, would survive many decades. "Ah, the criminals have finally found a true and safe haven for themselves!"
The criminals knew that collective hatred was one of the paths to power. It had been used on behalf of and in opposition to straights, gays, Jews, Mormons, fundamentalists, blacks, whites, women, and men. It was an easy-to-obtain virus equal in its pernicious need to create mind-made enemies. The criminals had distilled their lust for power through the diabolic hatred of other groups of people. And one side was as guilty as the other, equally bankrupt as they were.
He thought of something to say about the condition:
"Hatred destroys the moral high road."
He applauded himself for this nice phrase and went about his business conscious that he had, again, escaped the implications of being a liberal, democratic citizen in a land ruled by criminals. "As long as they permit me to saying my excellent phrases!" he thought.
Above all else the criminals needed to destroy critical thinking, objectivity, and truth itself. They had to destroy the belief that the press had any credibility. They had to convince the people to throw off silly notions of growth and development and go for the gold "by any means necessary."
The criminals had to erode the base of a liberal democracy and set free the unopposed desires of the populace to find their particular addiction, or a good seat at the gambling casino, or inure them to the destruction of language that made the criminals appear their saviors. And in the end every grain of American liberalism that had emerged from Jefferson and moved through Emerson, Whitman, on through TR, FDR, and JFK, had been destroyed.
Liberalism, as he understood it, wanted to develop a free, liberated, responsible, self-reliant, enlightened human being, male or female. "When you have many of these types of citizens you are going to produce a good society." He knew very few in the society, the rest were mere impressions captured from TV screens, books, or watching diligently when he entered the city on the city's terms. Ah, my society, he thought. A glacier moves in me carrying millions of souls I hardly know. He once had a preposterous notion that one only had to know twelve people thoroughly to know all who existed in the society.
The criminals, meanwhile, knew they needed collaboration with a significant portion of the polity. They studied the vulgar and frightening popular culture with acumen. They could smell the massive alienation a thousand miles away. They had become adroit operators in a land that demanded impeccable facades.
He concluded that it was unlikely a new type of liberalism would arise anytime soon. It was powerful in the 60's because a huge, youthful, educated population was idealistic and came of age at the junction point of a very controversial war, a noble civil rights movement, a terrifying prospect embedded in the cold war, lots of money to loosen things up. The criminals had been put to the run and driven out fully discredited. But in the aftermath of the glow it forgot that the criminal is an eternal and optimistic chameleon. In politics it acts like a virus and latches onto a naive seed that believes in itself. In one era it is progressive. In another era reactionary. The virus had settled deep in the fundamentalist movement among others. It always coveted the White House but had been driven away since Watergate. It smelled out the perfect combination of factors: A naive, inexperienced people with a huge dash of fear and ignorance thrown in the mix.
The fact was so overwhelming the hypothetical citizen felt a strange elation, a kind of liberation. Ah, well if it is so bad it will cross the threshold, the tipping point, and become its own horrible implication. It will belong to history rather than free, liberal, democratic people. So, I will act as though a new liberalism is utterly possible if not for now, then as a seed for the future as the debacle is a smoking ruin around them.
© 2006 David Eide. All rights reserved.
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