A DEADLY SILENCE
The US media is in full-throttle political campaign mode over a year before the next Presidential election and over five months before the first real ballot is cast in any primary election. The impact on national discourse is to magnify personality at the expense of content and set the stage for another election in which the US “democratic” process yields a seriously disabled winner.
With meaningful discussion of critical issues for the nation’s future hardly ever featured in coverage of the election and never demanded of the candidates themselves, it is easy to see how e-mail server hubris, mass deportations, and overactive female hormones capture so much public attention.
To take one key issue as an example, I really want to know where each and every candidate stands on the Iran nuclear deal – not yay or nay, but what each understands the deal to be, how each would enforce it if it is implemented, and how each would guide US and international reaction to an Iranian push for a nuclear weapon if the deal is not implemented. Also, I would like to see the media ask all those blowhards on the right if they are willing to send their own children and grandchildren to the Middle East to fight another war, instead of simply pressing to send the children of the mostly poor and the mostly under-educated.
In trying to understand how truly unlikely it is that this electoral process will require candidates to substantively address the nation’s deep-seated problems, it is instructive to watch the candidates try to manage confrontation with angry Black Lives Matter activists. I am still waiting for anyone of those seeking the Presidency to articulate what he/she would do to address the plague of gun violence in this country and the underlying poverty and racism that brings young black death to our television screens almost every evening. There is not a one of them with the courage to say that an entire nation can no longer be held hostage to misguided right-wing interpretation of the nation’s Constitution and the death-dealing gun lobby that has bought America's political soul.
Instead, we will hear a lot about America’s exceptionalism and a return to America’s “greatness.” We will hear next to nothing to indicate that a single candidate, except maybe Bernie Sanders, seems to understand that America’s past is “great” only if uncritically edited. The perceived “greatness” is an illusion that glosses over, among other realities, slavery and its enduring byproduct of deeply entrenched racism, immoral treatment of Native Americans, longstanding and now out of control income inequality, a third-rate healthcare delivery system, and an education system that has long been surpassed by other developed nations.
Quite simply, there is little greatness to which to return. However, not one of those running for office will ever mention this. Instead we will be treated to a wellspring of shallow and often ignorant soundbites that glorify wars past and present, that pay meaningless lip service to America’s underclass and the need for “reform,” and that routinely substitute reactive bluster for intelligent response.
No lives seem to matter enough to awaken this nation from its collective delusion – not the lives of young black men, not the lives lost to gun violence, not the lives of immigrant children or hungry children, and certainly not the lives of other people’s children sent to foreign lands to kill or be killed. In the unfolding political campaign, there will be many words spoken of these lost lives, but the substantive silence will overwhelm the few who seek meaningful answers to important questions.
Sadly, as a nation we are encouraged to wallow in our own sense of glory by a political process that simply does not educate the public about critical issues, that is financed by the wealthy for the wealthy, and that fails to inspire almost half of the eligible voters to even exercise their right to vote. The cacophony of personality and poll driven media coverage of US elections only adds to the shallowness of political discourse, which frequently sinks to even greater depths when religious mantra is thrown into the mix.
Without a doubt, I will vote for someone for President of the United States in November 2016. At this point, I do not know who that will be nor, truthfully, even who I want that to be. But it is certain that American exceptionalism and those who assert it as to the past, present or future will lose me along the way. The worst part of it is, they will lose few and pick up many. I do know that if America chooses poorly, both America and the world will continue to suffer from the consequences of this nation’s obsession with itself and the collective delusion that fuels that obsession.