It’s hard to imagine that the American public has ever felt more powerless in a given period of history than it does now, with the possible exception of the Great Depression. However, even during that awful fiscal and social crisis, there seemed to be a sense of agency – a pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality that told citizens to wake up and each day and keep fighting. The idea was that if you toiled hard enough after suffering a bad break, recovery was possible.
It’s certainly hard to grab ahold of that sensation now. Millions of jobs have been lost since the “Great Recession” began in 2007. But this time, we sit in the middle of an economic rebound that doesn’t include employment creation. The eliminated positions in finance, construction, manufacturing and other industries may never come back. Companies have learned to do more with less, aided by the technology ironically developed by thousands of H-1 visa workers who find that their services, and thus their vision of the 21st Century American dream, are no longer required.
Oil leaks into the Gulf by the millions of barrels, and we are told this environmental catastrophe may last another couple of MONTHS before we can even begin cleanup. We accept this with a resigned weariness that is beginning to take the shape of a national spirit. We didn’t vote to authorize this deep well drilling, and if there’s nothing the Federal Government can do about it, then certainly John Q. Public can’t solve the problem either. We must all sit our hands and wait patiently for the villain in this nightmare, British Petroleum, to figure a way out of this mess before the Gulf region becomes an ecological holocaust. Fishermen lose their livelihoods, animals die, plants are coated in black sludge and still we must wait for the same non-information to be spoon-fed to us each evening on the nightly news.
Millions of families lost their homes in the housing bust, and their retirement savings in the market crash of late 2008. Individuals and their dependents try to climb out of their personal fiscal craters while Bank of America, Citibank, JP Morgan and other agencies responsible for the mess post more robust profit earnings than ever. The always inept Congress debates punishment while these corporations laugh all the way to the bank.
What is the lesson taken away from these developments as well as the BP saga? Big business, not middle America, is what matters. Most of us can feel free to take a long walk off a short plank for all that our little lives mean in the grand scheme of Federal health. Just ask the families who lost loved ones in the BP oil rig explosion. Their bodies were never found, yet this is not a headline.
Where voices were once heard, raised up to effect a shifting of the national consciousness, and beget change, a organized movement is now required. The Tea Party was written off as a fad until Glenn Beck and his multi-media platform gave it some validity. Candidate Obama’s surge to victory on the shoulders of small donors already seems so antiquated.
So what’s the solution? How do we, to borrow a phrase from the Tea Partiers, “take back America?” How do we return the USA to its heyday as a Republic that is actually run for the people, by the people? Because it seems that preserving the status quo is what has actually become un-American – not as Mr. Rand Paul claims, criticizing the corporations who are slowly breaking our spirits.
The system is shattered and those of us (including me) who were naïve enough to believe that one man as President could fix it, are removing the pixie dust from our eyes to find, to our shock, that we may just need to start from scratch. America has become the proverbial ship that is so off course that it may be sunk before it ever finds the right path.
With each passing day, I am beginning to wonder if that is such a terrible idea to consider.