When I was a boy, so long ago, the 21st Century was a science fiction dream in a distant, hopeful future where the world be a better place and full of wonders. America was the land of the victors, with a “Dream” so strong that we were the preeminent country in the world. Our country had unprecedented military might and with unlimited opportunity awaiting us all. Now I am old and I’m seventeen years into that once wondrous appearing Century. America and our world has become an environment of wonders that in my childhood were only posited in science fiction. I was born into a world without television, cell phones, computers and the like. Now I go nowhere without my cell phone, am constantly in touch with the internet, use a GPS for driving directions and I’m in possession of a number of digital devices barely conceived long ago. Since the technological world didn’t end as some predicted about New Years 2000, we all live in this new century of wonder and yet the old horrors of humanity still exist. Wars are still being fought. Bigotry is still prevalent and the “rich” still get richer. Billions of humans still live in abject poverty and have not benefited from all the scientific advances that have been made in my lifetime. We denizens of the internet seem fascinated by lists and so I thought I’d compile a Top Five List of my own:
5 Things We’ve Learned (or Haven’t) About America in the 21st Century:
1. Democratic principles don’t prevail in our electoral system.
The 21st Century really began with an election wrongly decided by the conservative majority on the Supreme Court of the United States. They made a ruling in favor of stopping the recount of the key votes in Florida. In their decision it was pointedly stated that it was not to be used as precedent for future cases. Given the stated preferences of that conservative majority has almost always been to bolster the rights of individual states, it was inconsistent with their own purported judicial ideals. All of those Judges too had a long history of following the Federalist Society , whose precepts decried the work of previous “active” SCOTUS Justices, that had failed to follow the Originalist method of interpreting the Constitution. Yet somehow, in a one time ruling, the “men of honor” cast aside previous beliefs to elect a man whose family was directly involved in their being nominated to the Court. They also turned a blind eye to the fact that the then Governor of Florida was a brother of their preferred candidate and that the details of mishandling the election and disenfranchising voters cast some suspicions on his use of power. From the result of this SCOTUS ruling in undemocratically deciding a national election all other examples of what this country has lost in this new Century have flowed.
2. America has become a nation ruled by fear:
For America the signal event of this century so far has been 9/11, a day that has become so ubiquitous that all that is necessary to conjure a myriad of thoughts in most people, is to simply state those two numbers. For me, alive for all these years, I can remember the events of 9/11 more clearly than I can remember some of the fun times with my kids. Because of my age, the only comparable day in my memory was the day JFK was murdered. That too is a day that had many bad consequences in the years that followed. Etched so forcefully into the psyche of all Americans alive on 9/11 was the message that we were under attack and that attack happened at home, destroying two of the largest phallic symbols of our country, symbols that cast shadows over America’s true heartland Wall Street. The realization in Americans that we were not immune in our homeland from a terrorist attack struck fear into the hearts of a people of a once fearless nation. This was the country whose entire Pacific Fleet was wiped out at Pearl Harbor and yet within four years completely destroyed its enemies and their allies, by creating the most massive military juggernaut ever seen on this planet. Such was the fear, revulsion and anger of 9/11 that the quest for revenge was slaked by our political leaders, with few exceptions, approving a war against a country that had nothing to do with the cause of the attack. Our nation watched as this second Iraq War began with an attack called “Shock and Awe” . While Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 a proven fact with which some still disagree, it had much to do with that country’s oil reserves. The Bush Family is intertwined with the oil industry and are partners with Saudi Arabia in many a consortium. Then too, Dick Cheney also has a background in oil and also served as the head of “Halliburton” a company whose checkered history was also involved in the oil industry. This company became a leading defense contractor and no doubt has made Cheney into a very wealthy man.
We were able to make war on Iraq and then Afghanistan mainly because America’s sense of security was turned to fear by 9/11 and skillfully manipulated by a corporate news media, whose key phrase, repeated continually was “This Changes Everything”. In America’s new fear of attack, we were to see this philosophy implemented in many ways throughout the ensuing years and still today. Our country, once proudly seen as the “Home of the Brave” has been turned into the “Home of the Fearful”. This is not a critique of average Americans, or even the troops in our Armed Forces, because they have been skillfully manipulated by those in control of our society into being fearful, a state reinforced every day by almost all of the media available.
Since 9/11 Americans have been under a propaganda attack far more sophisticated and fear inducing than the “The Cold War” years propaganda. Although there was the dread of total nuclear destruction the Cold War never quite destroyed the Constitutional Rights of the American people, in the way that the fear induced by 9/11 has.
3. The American Dream is dead.
One month prior to the 2012 Presidential Election, while I was with Jonathan Turley’s blog, I wrote about “The American Dream” . What I wrote then holds even more truth today. In it I quoted Professor Jerome Karabel stating:
“[T]his cherished view of America is now a myth. The reality is in fact quite the opposite: Family origins matter more in the United States in determining where one ends up in life compared to other wealthy democratic countries. This is a recent development. Studies of social mobility as far back as the 1950s and 1960s showed that rates of movement in the United States were generally comparable to other developed countries. This finding itself challenged the longstanding image of America as exceptionally open, but it is a far cry from today, when the United States rates at or near the bottom in comparative studies of social mobility.
To take just two examples, a study by Jo Blanden and colleagues at the London School of Economics found that a father’s income was a better predictor of a son’s income in the United States than in seven other countries, including Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And a review article by Miles Corak at the University of Ottawa, based on 50 studies of nine countries, found the United States tied with the United Kingdom as having the least social mobility, trailing not only Norway and Denmark but France, Germany, and Canada.”
You will find further documentation from other respected sources in that piece. What is clear is that this is still a matter of concern and the evidence of the social disparity in America and the economic disparity is overwhelming. It is even accepted around the political spectrum that Americans can no longer expect that their children will do better than they did economically, which after all is the aspiration of the “American Dream”.
4. America has turned into a police state.
One of the oft-repeated precepts for our fear of the Soviet Union and China during the “Cold War” was that both those countries were “police states”. As it was defined constantly in TV, newspapers, movies and literature a “police state” existed in those countries because the State spied on all of its’ citizens creating a “climate of fear”, which stifled free expression and the exercise of freedom of choice. They were also “police states” because the police had seemingly unfettered authority to harass, physically intimidate, arrest indefinitely and even kill those it deemed “criminals”. With 9/11 came the fear and with the fear came the creation of the “Patriot Act” which has legitimized the abrogation of our Constitutional Rights in favor of greater security. In an ironic twist, supposedly conservative lawmakers, banded together with supposed liberal lawmakers, to create this act and also to create the super agency “The Department of Homeland Security”.
This super agency literally has its finger in every aspect of American life. It has also been responsible for the militarization of American police via the funding of “Swat Teams” and the funding of police training in using “Military Methodology” in dealing with American citizens.
5. American Mainstream Media hides the real news from us.
The American News media is controlled by an ever narrowing group of corporations. While the political bias of Rupert Murdoch’s crews are apparent, perhaps less apparent to most Americans is that almost all of the rest of the corporate media serves as both news suppressors and propaganda suppliers as well. The news they suppress relates to corporate control and malfeasance, especially where it relates to issues of foreign policy. The propaganda aspect comes from the use of patriotic memes like “We honor your service” to legitimize the war crimes committed by this country in the interests of the oil industry and private corporations. Even the most jaded among us cannot help but have compassion for the American Troops who put their lives at risk for this country, only to return or not, with maiming, PTSD and poor economic prospects. Yet that compassion within us is manipulated in the service of American Empire and corporate world domination. This is encouraged/abetted by the communications corporations that dominate our consciousness and set the boundaries of discussion. This situation is summed up in this excellent article: “The Biggest Scandal in America is its Controlled Press”
So here we are in The Age of Trump, a man elected with the aid of a hostile power and the peculiarity of our Electoral College, which gave him the Presidency, despite his losing the popular vote by 3 million. This fraudulent failure, made to seem a success by reality TV and a media enjoying his clownish behavior in the interest of ratings, ran a campaign solely based on fear. This malignant mountebank stoked the underlying racism (which itself is fear) of barely enough voters, by disparaging Latinos, Muslims and People of Color. He insisted, despite the facts, that America was a land of dangerous, murderous crime and used the dog-whistle phrase “Law and Order” to give the message that Black People would be suppressed. Donald Trump was elected President by the use of fear, whether from people of color, immigrants, Muslims, women, or liberals. In the midst of his incompetence, cupidity and deceit, he is trying to maintain his now tenuous grasp of the Presidency by invoking fear.