Yes, this headline is a parody of the vacuous 1981 Olivia Newton John hit song, Let’s Get Physical. And yes, this might be a questionable way to headline the most serious-as-a-heart-attack post I’ve ever attempted to write.
So maybe a better title to this, my gut-reaction to the recent, sickening news coming out of Charlottesville, Virginia would be:
Everything is Questionable so Let’s Question Everything.
Another way to say this is: People! Let’s Get our Heads out of our Ignorant, Self-Righteous, Belligerent Butts and Make it our Civic Duty to Define, Address, and Find Solutions to our Actual Problems!
(Yes, I’m addressing We the People!)
A friend shared a link to this article on Democracy & Government by Andrew Bacevich called Trump is Not Cause, But Consequence on Facebook. I almost could just link to the article and say, “Read This!”
But almost infers more must be done.
What happened? What can we do? In light of the recent tragedies in Virginia it is clear to me we, I, all of us can and must do more. We have to be better than we have been.
Andrew Bacevich is significantly smarter, better educated, more well-connected, and more politically savvy than I ever will be. He has written an intelligent, wise article on the state of democracy and government. But I’m not simply linking to or reposting his article because I fear far too few citizens will take the time or expend the effort to read this important, articulate, powerful piece of writing. I am making a plea.
It’s really long article. It requires readers to understand and follow a complex logical argument. It asks us to think deeply about big ideas like the “responsibilities and prerogatives” of our “three-co-equal branches of government,” and “all the habits and precedents that had contributed to empowering the modern American presidency.”
In other words, Andrew Bacevich is asking us as citizens of the United States to claim our rights and live up to our responsibilities as protectors of democracy. For various reasons we haven’t been doing a good enough job of living up to the responsibilities of being We the People.
I won’t enumerate those reasons here, as that’s another whole article. It’s sufficient to say that some of the reasons we fail to be good citizens are our own lazy, complacent, or ignorant fault. Some of the reasons, however, are the fault of people, organizations, parties and governments who, from greedy or self-righteous motives, oppose democratic principals. They have devised systems and implemented controls which constrain our power to be good citizens. Because when we’re good citizens, goodness gains and corruption loses power.
They work hard to take away our power. We need to work harder for what is right and good.
I’d like to summarize and simplify Mr. Bacevich’s excellent article. Hopefully this will encourage you to read it. He writes to explain:
The president of the United States stands for America and represents who we are.
Because our founders didn’t want us to have a king who stands for us and represents who we are, it didn’t used to be this way. Until about 100 years ago, the president was considered to be just a mildly impressive guy doing a fairly important job for a few years. The job of the president was supposed to be no more important than the job of congress and the job of the supreme court.
Then a series of national and international crises came along, which enabled the president to become a more powerful figure. Some of that power was gained by force, but mostly it came about because congress or the courts allowed it.
Hardly anyone contested the shift of power from congress and court to the presidency because, as Mr. Bacevich explains, it turned out to good for the business of “investment banks and multinational corporations, churches and universities, big city newspapers and TV networks, the bloated national security apparatus and both major political parties” to have a president who acts like the world’s most powerful king.
Not only was it good for them, but most ordinary Americans like it, too, when their president (and not any other country’s leader) is generally recognized as “the most powerful person in the universe.” Our president makes us proud to be an American!
Well, until Donald Trump got elected. Nothing like him has ever happened to the White House and the esteemed office of the president of the United States.
“A vulgar, bombastic, thrice-married real-estate tycoon and reality TV host [has become] prophet, moral philosopher, style-setter, interpreter of the prevailing zeitgeist and our chief celebrity?”
A lot of people think this is abominable!
But, says Mr. Bacevich, it’s highly delusional to imagine that things will get any better, or that our massive problems will go away when he is out of office. Because Donald Trump is not the cause of our problems.
Actually, it’s more like this: we have some particular, horrifying problems which, for quite some time we’ve failed to recognize and address and the result of those unaddressed problems is that “a vulgar, bombastic, thrice-married real-estate tycoon and reality TV host” became POTUS 45.
People didn’t vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. They voted against the way the government has not been working to make America a place of liberty and justice for all.
Post-Cold-War policy was not working for the good of America nor of Americans. Instead policy-makers of both parties assisted greedy corporations in their wild rush to acquire more and more wealth by exploiting all the world’s people and resources. They disregarded the ages old wisdom inherent in the philosophy of democracy–that all people everywhere deserve to live in a just and peaceful world. They promoted the pursuit of supremacy and thereby created a culture of division.
And now, we’re one festering mess. Alienation and despair pervade our “society suffering from epidemics of chronic substance abuse, morbid obesity, teen suicide and similar afflictions. Throw in the world’s highest incarceration rate, a seemingly endless appetite for porn, urban school systems mired in permanent crisis and mass shootings that occur with metronomic regularity.”
This is our call to wake up, to take on the responsibility of being we the people. It is time to set aside our fear, our apathy, our ignorance, and our gullibility and accept Mr. Bacevich’s challenge, in whose view, “the point of being an American is to participate in creating a society that strikes a balance between wants and needs, that exists in harmony with nature and the rest of humankind and that is rooted in an agreed upon conception of the common good.”
For concerned citizens, the last portion of Mr. Bacevich’s article lists steps that need be taken to clear away the debris of bad policy and decisions. And then we can work on coming “up with better and truer ideas to serve as a foundation for American politics.”
I hope you’ll join me in this pursuit for a better country, one that makes us proud, for all the right reasons, to be who we are.