Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"Resting Comfortably" and Other Great American Lies

I'm sure you've heard it on the news from time to time: some famous person has been hospitalized and is said to be "resting comfortably" by a reassuring media voice.

My ass he is. Having just been in the hospital myself (and a fairly good one by NYC standards—New York Methodist in Brooklyn's Park Slope), I can tell you that there's no such thing as rest—never mind comfortable rest—in a hospital. And that's a curious thing indeed, which perhaps tells us something about our culture: the one universal aid to healing the body of almost any ailment—sleep—is the one thing that's impossible in a hospital!

Televisions, PA systems, and telephones are blaring constantly in your average ward; conversations are always going on between doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors; and someone's always coming by to stick a needle in you, take you someplace to be tested or examined, or the old stand-by—waking you up to give you a sleeping pill.

But I am well (or, as baseball great Ron "Babe" Hassey once explained to the media, "physically I'm fine, but mentally I'm day-to-day"); and I'd like to invite Terry McKenna back to the blog, to discuss other great American lies while I try to figure out exactly who this Mr. Roberts is, and what kind of scrum he's likely to incite in the hallowed halls of Congress.

Mr. McKenna, front and center:

How did we end up here, with a corrupt government of lying insiders who refuse to explain what it is that they really want? Our leaders have lots of talking points, but they express no truths. It was not supposed to be this way. The ancient politics of party bosses and back room deals was supposed to have ended in the '60s and '70s, replaced by the era of open government.
We have government by rhetoric. On almost any issue, spokesmen appear on the news shows, ready with talking points and stock evasions. They stay frighteningly on message. Yet they never tell us what it is that they really want to accomplish. It was not always like this. Yes, I know politicians have always lied to us, but even the liars revealed their plans. For example, during the New Deal, Roosevelt was in earnest with the many initiatives he proposed to get our economy moving. For example, when the FHA was invented, it was designed to put the moribund housing industry back on its feet. Throughout the next 60 years, when big government solutions were proposed, they were meant to do entirely what the politicians said they were meant to do. Whether they worked or not is another question. For example, many believe that Head Start is a failure, that it produces only short term gains. But the bottom line is that for the most part, politicians meant what they said with their big ideas. With the current Bush administration, that is no longer so.
Almost everything Bush says is meant for effect. For example, look at the Bush tax cuts. These were first proposed as a vehicle to return excess revenue to the people who paid the most taxes; then when the economy tanked, the tax cuts were re-positioned as a stimulus package. Since capital gains and estate taxes provide little genuine economic stimulus, it is unclear why the administration went ahead with them in the midst of a recession. Similarly we have the so called War on Terror. George Bush lied to us regarding the successes in Afghanistan, and told even bigger lies when he urged us into Iraq. And yes, I know that he avoided outright lies, but if businesses made similar sorts of misrepresentations, they would be hauled before the courts for commercial fraud.
The entire Bush program is made up of empty slogans. We get a “clear skies initiative” that stands for an excuse to let old power plants off the hook - especially old coal fired plants that spew dangerous mercury into the environment. And look at the “healthy forests initiative” - this is a back door way to let the loggers back in. And when GW proposed Social Security reform, he was looking for a way to convince Americans to back out of paying back the huge loan our government took from wage earners since the 1980s (by borrowing excess Social Security taxes).
And where has our free press been while all this is happening? Sadly, nowhere. Local newspapers are a shell of what they once were. And broadcast TV is little better with its diet of happy local news mixed with national news roundups. Foreign news is almost forgotten. Cable is the worst of all, since it pretends to be a 24/7 connection to the world, but we really get reruns and titillation. By the way, for the over 40 crowd, if you remember the movie Network (1976) - what once seemed over the top looks pretty much like a straight forward prediction.
Some blame for where we are now must go to the arrogant left that dominated the 60s and '70s. Growing up in a working class suburb, I remember my reaction to the limousine liberals of my teenage and college years, when luminaries like Leonard Bernstein and his wife would host the Black Panthers, and politicians like John Lindsay would dismiss concerns of middle class New Yorkers, in favor of welfare recipients and thugs. While big cities collapsed under a mountain of spending; the left proposed finding ways to tax the suburbs. There was no thought to living within one's means.
The greatest assault on America was in Academia, where history, psychology and law were redesigned to push Marxist inspired ends. And yes, the changes wrought by the 60's were long overdue. But any strong push in one direction will inevitably be counteracted as the pendulum makes its return swing.
So an era of leftist extremism is dead and replaced by one of right wing extremism. Now would be the time for Democrats to rethink their reliance on interest groups (thus Democrats have minorities, women, pro abortion folks, environmentalist etc. in their camp). But despite losing the majority, the Democrats are afraid to fight for the middle. When I look at their website, I see several communities: Religious Communities, Hispanics, Women and African Americans - but as a middle aged man who lives in suburban New Jersey, I don't see a place for me.

—T. McKenna

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