What Chiarscuro says.
The Broad View: The Age of Sphincter Failure
The men who imagined the Declaration of Independence and forged our Constitution and Bill of Rights were proudly liberal in the best sense of that word. They considered themselves, literally, enlightened and set out to make manifest the most revolutionary principles of their age.
Our nation today is scarcely worthy of such forebears. The Age of Reason has been overtaken by the Age of Sphincter Failure. The Enlightenment has ceded to the Apotheosis of the Ignoramus.
A friend writes to me that those of us who have been writing and speaking out against this administration and the Republican congress are finally having an effect “among thinking people.”
I replied that I can’t get very excited, even with the tenuous prospect of Democratic victory at the polls next month. Sadly, tragically, too many people are still not thinking. We have scarcely thought about anything except fear and revenge for a long, long time. Greed and indulgence occupy whatever remaining spare thoughts we can manage.
In this, we’ve been led by the Republicans and it didn’t start with the attacks on 9/11. It was happening through WWII and its aftermath of the Cold War. As a nation, we’ve been betraying the vision of the Founders since then, with every McCarthy, Nixon, Thurmond and Bush we’ve elected.
We’ve built up as impressive a history of bed-wetting, quivering fear over Japs, Commies, blacks, hippies and, now, “Islamofascists” and “libruls” as any primitive tribe cringing from comets or cowering under an eclipse.
We can trace the waves of rising fear throughout our history. We fought a Civil War to beat back the worst of our fears, those fed by racism, change and greed.
The fear-mongers of the authoritarian rightwing have been aided and abetted every step of the way by religious leaders more akin to carnival barkers — holy rollers from hell eager to build their congregations and coffers by offering up the “Other” to the pits of hellfire in every Sunday sermon.
All too often in our recent history, elected Democrats have been just as susceptible — both in their cringing behavior and their demagoguery. I can count on one hand, practically, the elected Democrats who have stood up to the Republican bullies and thugs in Congress.
People like John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and almost every big-name Democrat has gone along to get along. Every compromise of liberal and Democratic principles has diminished them and their party. Every act of cowardly self-preservation — “Please God, give me another term!” — has been a betrayal of our better selves.
But the Republicans can’t avoid the lion’s share of institutional blame. Since gaining control of Congress in 1994 they have set about stimulating and exploiting every ugly tendency of the American id.
With the installation of the Uber-Thugs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in the White House and Pentagon, Republicans have accelerated our screaming dive into gibbering national insanity. The inmates truly are running the asylum.
They have turned whatever was left of the organs of American government into the spoils of a putrefying corpse up for auction to the highest bidder. They have scoured the Bill of Rights like an attic of rickety antiques, reducing our most sacred laws to a box of soiled rejects, pushed to the curb of a national yard-sale.