What Happened to America?
In the last fifty years, we have grown accustomed to governments whose policies on specific issues may be good or bad, but which essentially institute incremental changes to the status quo. The major exceptions have been Thatcher and Reagan, but even their programs of dismantling systems of social welfare seem, in retrospect, mild compared to what is happening in the United States under George Bush – or more exactly, the ruling junta that tells Bush what to do and say.
It is unquestionably the most radical government in modern American history, one whose ideology and actions have become so pervasive, and are so unquestionably mirrored by the mass media here, that the population seems to have forgotten what “normal” is.
George Bush is the first unelected President of the United States, installed by a right-wing Supreme Court in a kind of judicial coup d’etat. He is the first to actively subvert one of the pillars of American democracy: the separation of church and state. There are now daily prayer meetings and Bible study groups in every branch of the government, and religious organizations are being given funds to take over educational and welfare programs that have always been the domain of the state.
It is the first administration to openly declare a policy of unilateral aggression, a “Pax Americana” where the presence of allies (whether England or Bulgaria) is agreeable but unimportant; where international treaties no longer apply to the United States; and where – for the first time in history – this country reserves the right to non-defensive, “pre-emptive” strikes against any nation on earth, for whatever reason it declares.
It is the first – since the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II – to enact special laws for a specific ethnic group. Non-citizen young Muslim men are now required to register and subject themselves to interrogation. Many hundreds have been arrested and held without trial or access to legal assistance-- a violation of another pillar of American democracy: habeas corpus. In Guantanamo Bay, where it is said that they are now preparing execution chambers, hundreds of foreign nationals – including a 13-year-old and a man who claims to be 100 – have been kept for almost two years in a limbo that clearly contravenes the Geneva Convention.
Similar to the Reagan era, it is an administration openly devoted to helping the rich and ignoring the poor, one that has turned the budget surplus into a massive deficit through its combination of enormous tax cuts for the wealthy (particularly those who earn more than a million dollars a year) and increases in defense spending. (And, although Republicans always campaign on “less government,” it has created the largest new government bureaucracy in history: the Department of Homeland Security.) The Financial Times of England, hardly a hotbed of leftists, has categorized this economic policy as “the lunatics taking over the asylum.”
But more than Reagan – whose policies tended to benefit the rich in general – most of Bush’s legislation specifically enriches those in his lifelong inner circle from the oil, mining, logging, construction, and pharmaceutical industries. At the middle level of the bureaucracy, where laws may be issued without Congressional approval, hundreds of regulations have been changed to lower standards of pollution or safety in the workplace.
Billions in government contracts have been awarded, without competition, to corporations formerly run by administration officials. In a country where the most significant social changes are enacted by court rulings, rather than by legislation, the Bush administration has been filling every level of the complex judicial system with ultra-right ideologues, especially those who have protected corporations from lawsuits by individuals or environmental groups, and those who are opposed to women's reproductive rights.
Most of all, America doesn’t feel like America any more. The climate of militarism and fear, similar to any totalitarian state, permeates everything. Bush is the first American president in memory to swagger around in a military uniform, though he himself – like all of his most militant advisers – evaded the Vietnam War. (Even Eisenhower, a general and a war hero, never wore his uniform while he was president).
In the airports of provincial cities, there are frequent announcements in that assuring, disembodied voice of science-fiction films: “The Department of Homeland Security advises that the Terror Alert is now . . . Code Orange.” Every few weeks there is an announcement that another terrorist attack is imminent, and citizens are urged to take ludicrous measures, like sealing their windows, against biological and chemical attacks, and to report the suspicious activities of their neighbors.
The Pentagon institutes the “Total Information Awareness” program to collect data on the ordinary activities of ordinary citizens (credit card charges, library book withdrawals, university course enrollments) and when this is perceived as going too far, they change the name to “Terrorist Information Awareness” and continue to do the same things. Millions are listed in airport security computers as potential terrorists, including antiwar demonstrators and pacifists. Critics are warned to “watch what they say” and lists of “traitors” are posted on the internet.
The war in Iraq has been the most extreme manifestation of this new America, and almost a casebook study in totalitarian techniques.
First, an Enemy is created by blatant lies that are endlessly repeated until the population believes it: in this case, that Iraq was linked to the attack on the World Trade Center, and that it possesses vast “weapons of mass destruction” that threaten the world.
Then, a War of Liberation, entirely portrayed by the mass media in terms of our Heroic Troops, with little or no imagery of casualties and devastation, and with morale-inspiring, scripted “news” scenes – such as the toppling of the Saddam statue and the heroic “rescue” of Private Lynch.
Finally, as has happened with Afghanistan, America has received very little news of the chaos that has followed the Great Victory.
It is very difficult to speak of what is happening in America without resorting to the hyperbolic cliches of anti-Americanism that have lost their meaning after so many decades, but that have now finally come true.
Perhaps one can only recite the facts, and I have mentioned only some of them here. This is, quite simply, the most frightening American administration in modern times, one that is appalling both to the left and to traditional conservatives. This junta is unabashed in its imperialist ambitions; it is enacting an Orwellian state of Perpetual War; it is dismantling, or attempting to dismantle, some of the most fundamental tenets of American democracy; it is acting without opposition within the government, and is operating so quickly on so many fronts that it has overwhelmed and exhausted any popular opposition.
Perhaps it cannot be stopped, but the first step toward slowing it down is the recognition that this is an American government unlike any other in this country’s history, and one for whom democracy is an obstacle.
- Anonymous1 decade agoFavorite Answer
To start off, I'd like to point out that the fact that Thatcher's mentioned at the beggining side by side with Reagan doesn't imply in any way whatsoever that the author believes Thatcher was a president of the US. Give us a break, now will you? Only a blockheaded right-wing born again Christian and so forth would be able to misunderstand something so simple. Now, I know that Bush's intellect, as the world knows except for some maniacs who vote for him in the States, would perfectly well make him a candidate for such silly misunderstandings - to prove it, he understands nothing of the entire rest of the world - that makes him arrogant as well... Does he understand anything of America? I don't have to read your "diatribe", as someone decided to put it, to know you're right.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Keep up the fight. Doubt if it is going to do much good. We depend upon the vote, but even that is corrupt. There are those who say that Bush's 2000 election Victory was unquestionable, yet over 10,000 eligible voters in Florida, mostly African-Americans, were prevented from voting for one reason or another. The chad issue was a ruse, a smoke screen. Today, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona, et al, have enacted restrictive voter laws which have hearkened back to the "Jim Crow" laws, and the Bush Justice department has signed off on them. This was reported at length on PBS this past week. When the vote is corrupt, what is left to do?
I would not be so respectful of Regan, much of this began under his administration.
- Anonymous1 decade ago
Wow! I agree with virtually everything you have said, though there are a couple other important points you missed or hinted at but didn't catch the connection...First ; Bush was "placed" into office for a couple reasons (1) The same info was given to Clinton, but he didn't fall for the B.S. and Gore could not be manipulated either, but Bush didn't "know better", (2) Bush had agendas in line with what other rich government officials wanted & he could be easilly manipulated...
The rich get richer by living off the poor and creating the "choice of servitude" by illiminating choice...Big business creates a higher profit margin by paying less in wages & not offering healthcare benefits by hiring "part-time" instead of full time employees...By outsourcing middle class jobs, businesses can pay less than our minimum wage to those in other countries and create even more poor to who will work for less, just to have some income of some kind...Big business also controls the media...
Aid's / HIV is a Global Health Crisis...FAS/D is far worse, it's covered up & downplayed and the consumption / abuse of alcohol & sex without thinking of precations are inseperable issues...Our government does just enough to seem like they are trying to do something, but downplays the importance...
Is our world going to end? YES! Most likely well within 100 years. It's a race to see which will kill us first, Global Warming or Aids.
Americans have been beaten down to the point of feeling helpless, though the upcoming elections are looking interesting as incumbants are sent packing...The american public at large suffers from what actions the government takes, here or in other countries...
There is only one true renwable resource...Poor who can't or Won't take back the control of our own lives and can be made into modern day slaves of those who couldn't care less if we live or die...
- Michael KLv 61 decade ago
Gracious, you are a wealth of misinformation.
- we Americans have not forgotten what 'normal' is,
- Bush is not an 'unelected' President,
- there are not daily prayer meetings in every branch of the government (or in any branch of the government),
- this is not the first time in history that a government has exercised a pre-emptive strike, there have been lots of them,
- there have been no laws enacted against specific ethnic groups,
- there are no 'execution chambers' in Guantanamo, nor are there any Americans held there,
- hundreds of regulations have not been changed to lower work place standards,
- Bush is not the first President to wear a military uniform while in office,
- The FT did not print what you claim they did,
- security databases do not list millions protestors and demonstrators as 'potential terrrorists',
- no one has urged citizens to seal their windows,
- the administration is not without critics from within the government,
and, if you spent more time reading and less writing you might get just a few of the facts right. You are the poster boy for "articulate but uninformed".
- How do you think about the answers? You can sign in to vote the answer.
- RickLv 71 decade ago
Whatever has happend with this government the beauty is it can still change. America still offers more opportunity and social mobility than any other country, including the countries of Europe.
In the American view, there is nothing vile or degraded about serving your customers either as a CEO or as a waiter. The ordinary life of production and supporting a family is more highly valued in the United States than in any other country. America is the only country in the world where we call the waiter "sir," as if he were a knight.
People live longer, fuller lives in America.
In America the destiny of the young is not given to them, but created by them.
America has gone further than any other society in establishing equality of rights.
America has found a solution to the problem of religious and ethnic conflict that continues to divide and terrorize much of the world. Visitors to places like New York are amazed to see the way in which Serbs and Croatians, Sikhs and Hindus, Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants, Jews and Palestinians, all seem to work and live together in harmony. How is this possible when these same groups are spearing each other and burning each other's homes in so many places in the world?
America is the only country in the world that extends full membership to outsiders. An American could spend 40 years in India but would not become Indian. In America, by contrast, hundreds of millions have come from far-flung shores and over time they, or at least their children, have in a profound and full sense "become American."
Twice in the 20th century, the United States saved the world -- first from the Nazi threat, then from Soviet totalitarianism. What would have been the world's fate if America had not existed? After destroying Germany and Japan in World War II, the United States proceeded to rebuild both countries, and today they are American allies. Now we are doing the same thing in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet America never stays to rule that country.
America is far from perfect, and there is lots of room for improvement. In spite of its flaws, however, American life as it is lived today is the best life that our world has to offer. Ultimately America is worthy of our love and sacrifice because, more than any other society, it makes possible the good life, and the life that is good.
Nothing Bush has done or the current government done, has or could change that. Thank God.
- Magic OneLv 61 decade ago
Unfortunately, although you have a lot of good material here, you are going to take a lot of heat from those who really don't like thinking. They live in denial of that fact that America has ever or could ever do anything wrong. They are the type who love freedom of speech and the press as long as no one says anything with which they disagree. They are easily cowered by fear and surrender their rights when threatened by the specter of a non white face. Let's face it, they claim to love America, they just can't stand Americans.
This operation of denial can be seen in how quickly the Murrow building in Oklahoma City has been forgotten. Good ol' Christian white boys did that so we are anxious to forget it. We didn't start stopping white ex-military red neck types at airports. Instead we concentrate our efforts on rounding up innocent people of color. We had the same problem in WWII. We hearded up the Japanese and left those of German decent run free. After all, the Germans "look too much like us." Dominant culture will out.
I'm afraid that for the most part the real problem comes down to a feeling of powerlessness. Citizens of this country don't understand the privilege and power they have through the ballot box. They don't understand what writing to their representatives can do. America is a country of participation. You can't just sit back and expect that everything will go right. You have to stand up and be counted. At the very least you need to get out that one day a year and vote. And I mean vote for everything, local, state and federal elections. Funny how the local officials have the most direct effect on our lives and historically have the smallest turn out.
And watch out for the media. They tell you the sky is falling even on a clear day. There job is to sell. The truth can fend for itself. Sensationalism and innuendo are what sell, not cold rational facts.
- jackieLv 61 decade ago
Unfortunately it has been going on for some time by both Democrats and Republicans. It was Katrina that brought home the complete inefficiency and incompetency of this government. It made everyone look long and hard at what has taken place in this country. While we slept the country was invaded by Mexico, we were lied into war, our country was being sold out from beneath us, job sent to other countries, cost of living is sky high, and found our politicians to all be crooks. All we have left is the vote. Will be be wise enough to vote individual or stick to party? Will anyone come forth to save America?
- Reject187Lv 41 decade ago
Yeah, and too many people actually believe Bush should be in power and is doing the right thing. That's what has allowed this to happen, the rich people with their hands out and the poor backwards conservatives all over the place who don't want to consider the possibility that their government would lie to them on such a grand scale. It's ironic that Bush is supported by so many Christians since he has so much blood on his hands.
- airmonkey1001Lv 41 decade ago
America has been hijacked by the results of the American Dream and uncontrolled capatalism: very rich meglomaniacs who don't care about anything ecept themselves and the furtherment of their own beliefs. It is clearly in their interests to control everyone and everything and that is what they are doing ie. get people scared, take away their rights in the pretence of protecting them and set everyone against each other to forestall anykind of backlash.
Roll on the One World Police State.
- Your Best FiendLv 61 decade ago
1) Bush is president. Get over it.
2) The McCarthy era was rather divisive in the hunt for communists and putting God in the Pledge and on money.
3) It is hard for people to have perspective on the times they live in. The century has only started; there is plenty of time to have a worse president than Bush.
4) The way you have couched this rant will not bring people to your side. I am generally on your side, but I tend to ignore kooks.