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Monday, December 20, 2004

Whiplash!

Read Bill Moyers' last speech this morning given before the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School upon receiving its fourth annual Global Environment Citizen Award. Thought seriously of turning out the lights and shutting down to wait for The Rapture, but figured that I ought to at least sound the alarm before doing so. His words are more sobering than anything I've read recently, and -- though delivered in his usual gentle but firm style -- equally astonishing in content. I'd advise that all pull it up on line and read every word. How on earth did our great nation come to this? How on earth will we ever reverse our course in time to save ourselves from the catastrophe of the self-fulfilling prophecy? How did we ever allow the lunatics to gain control of the asylum? And whatever happened to the afterglow of the trip to MOMA last weekend? Happiness is so fragile. Slips away so easily in the miasma of unbelievably ugly headlines justifying a kind of cruelty and duplicity unprecedented in my long lifetime.

To add to the horror, I started a new book last night that was so disturbing that I needed to put it down -- turn on the mind-numbing late night shows television to distract myself from the realization that we've been here before; the cruelty is neither new nor novel in our time -- but is a part of the national heritage. The book is "An Imperfect God; George Washington, his slaves, and the Creation of America" by Henry Wiencek.

Though Washington underwent a transformation during the war of his time, it was only after unspeakable crimes against those human slaves that he owned. "... As a young man he bought and sold slaves without scruples, even raffled off young children to collect debts." We do carry a legacy of shame that is with us still. If anything, it's even more pronounced in our time, amplified by the increased power that we hold over a world caught up in the web of deceit that now emanates from our halls of governance and bleeds hypocrisy ceaselessly. Under current leadership it has begun to erode many of the civil liberties and rights guaranteed by our founding documents. The Bill of Rights is presently being shamelessly shredded by corporate and political greed, and blind ambition. But mostly by fear and religious zealotry as described by Moyers in his speech. It is chilling. It is predictive of disaster that now threatens all of existence as we know it.

Why is there that quiet voice deep inside that says to me that turning our backs on the arts and the beauty of the world is related to our slide into dispair? Without the sharp edges of dissent reaching out to us at that emotional level that rationality cannot reach -- we've crippled our ability to see and hear the warnings. Instead, the media is simply regurgitating a reality owned and controlled by the zealots and is by now incapable of creating anything more than the self-fulfilling prophecy of hell, fire, and damnation. I believe that we've ceded (by neglect and apathy) our right to define our own reality, and instead have become simply reactive.

It was hard (after I'd turned off the bedside lamp) to escape the notion that -- with Rather, Brokaw, now Moyers, stepping off stage -- that a sense of hopelessness is pervading the nation. Though their time has surely come after many years in the trenches, it feels a little like abandonment at a time when "family" needs to stay together. And that said, much of the confidence in those voices had disappeared (for me) as they were shoved to the Right for survival in an unforgiving and compromised media environment. The only frontier left to us appears to be Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, and wouldn't it be wonderful if his kind of bare-fisted confrontation masked as satire could be out there on the Left tossing grenades of serious truth as fiercely as he does so bravely night after night?

The weekend had its rewards, but for the moment I need to let the dispair dissipate lest the joy become hopelessly contaminated.

More later ... .








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