As America continues to decompensate (and yes I am qualified to use that word clinically thank you very much Hunter College School of Social Work), I find myself spending more and more time on facebook explaining stuff to my virtual friends who live in magical places where people are still sort of rational.
So I’ve decided to add a new category to this blog. In honor of Mr. Alistair Cooke, I will now post “Letters from America” in which I try to explain what the hell is going on here to people who may not be watching 18 hours of cable news a day while surfing the Internet.
I will be starting this work in earnest next week, but meantime I have to meditate and cleanse in preparation for the upcoming International 3 Day Novel Competition, which begins at 12:00 AM on Saturday, September 4. It would also be a good idea if I maybe wrote an outline or something (which is legal) prior to the contest, but because they actually invited me to enter this year (as a prize for making the short list last year) and I didn’t have to shell out the fifty bucks, I am completely unmotivated. This probably has to do with my being an American. If something is offered for free, we don’t value it. Charge us, however, and we will line up like the born suckers we are.
Meantime for those of you wondering why Sarah Palin is still in the news, who Glenn Beck is and what’s all this about mosques on hallowed ground, not to mention why a sizable number of Americans are convinced the President is a secret Muslim from Kenya, I’ll leave you with some reading material. Last week’s New Yorker offered a brilliant article by Jane Mayer, Covert Operations exposing the shadowy billionaire brothers Koch who along with Rupert Murdoch are responsible for a lot the disinformation being spread around.
I also blame the Internets and cable television. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that many people no longer get even slightly credible news from the networks or newspapers or magazines, but instead rely on Fox News and right-wing blogs. These gullible saps swallow whatever swill they are given no matter how ridiculous. Even mainstream news outlets such as CNN have taken to inviting wingnut bloggers with no legitimate credentials or expertise to lie freely on their airwaves. A good source for anyone wishing to find out more about this is Media Matters.
Finally, Obama was wrong about at least one thing. There is not one America. There used to be a North/South divide, but Dixie culture is spreading. There is a racist element that has felt disenfranchised ever since the end of slavery and for whom the election of a black President — even one with a white mother who was mostly raised by his white grandparents who were both from Kansas (Kansas for Chistsakses!) has proved to be too much. Many of these people haven’t been involved in the political process before and are being brought in by the likes of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. While it’s hard to imagine that they have anywhere near the numbers to elect her president, it would be foolish to underestimate the possible damage rousing this rabble can cause. It’s already enabled a virtual shutdown of congress and there have been several incidents at mosques and other hate crimes.
This ignorant element was called the “boobswasie” by H.L. Mencken, an American journalist best remembered today for his quip that “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people” — which I believe Palin may be adopting as her campaign slogan. As a journalist, he covered the Scopes Monkey Trial, the first time that the teaching of evolution was on trial. The trial was a pivotal event in American history because Clarence Darrow defended Scopes and Williams Jennings Bryan took the prosecutions’ role. Evolution lost by the way, but Scopes got off on a technicality. Years later there was a play dramatizing the trial and later a well known film. Inherit the Wind. Gene Kelly played the Mencken like character in the movie. It’s more than a bit dated, but I’d recommend it to anyone trying to a handle on the current situation. Here’s a clip: