Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Achieving an odd kind of peace of mind

(See yesterday's post for the Garrison Keillor piece I'm responding to.)

So maybe Election Day comes and we've done our absolute best and the worst happens anyway: Bush gets a second term. Maybe (as Garrison Keillor says in his article below), the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few is the death knell of U.S. democracy. Keillor says that no republic in the history of humanity has survived this kind of power concentration. So we won't be able to sustain it either. There are a few scenarios. One is that if the government withdraws enough support of the working class poor (and the poor that aren't even working), they will become desperate and angry enough to do whatever they can to make their voices heard. A people with nothing to lose is a dangerous people and the "Haves" (which would include educated leftists like myself, however unemployed) will be targeted. What's to stop them?

Another scenario is that the rest of the countries in the world decide they've had enough of this overgrown toddler of a two-century-old nation, and decide to combine their weaponry to put us in our place. Now it's true that the United States has more military power than all the other countries in the world combined, but if all the other countries in the world did combine their forces, we would be in a bad place. But, someone might ask, how likely is it that every single country in the world would want to curb our strength? I'd say it's as likely as George W. Bush is to alienate every single country without exception. And four more years of Bush will certainly get us there.

One way or another, the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few cannot be sustained for long. History shows us that when empires reach their pinnacle of power, wealth and political arrogance, they begin to decline. Our nuclear stockpiles have been accepted thus far by the rest of the world because such acts as founding the United Nations showed our sincere desire to be a force of international support and development. We have served other countries well in the past. But now we've become a renegade force, a vigilante nation that carries out its own agenda regardless of what any other country thinks, and regardless of what every other country does think at this point.

I feel like we're on a train hurtling towards a collision, with a driver who is unreachable, and all we can do is try to brace ourselves for the impact. We can shout, pray or organize, but we can't really stop the crash from happening. We can only hope that our closest friends and family aren't hurt too badly, or hope that a merciful source of aid will show up to take care of our needs after the collision.

Are we really that powerless? Does the United States of America really have no choice but to fulfill some destiny of zenith and decline? Is it simply part of the growing pains of being a fledgling nation? Because we certainly are a fledging nation, in spite of our technological advancements and our status as a "developed" first world nation. So we have a marginally effective "democracy." We're still in our childhood compared to most other countries (like China).

So maybe, if I step back to look at the big BIG picture, everything is where it's supposed to be: the U.S. has had amassing of power and wealth, followed by altruistic foreign policy, followed by the belief that we know what's best for the entire world, followed by using our Big Stick wherever we like, followed by pissing off the whole world and much of our own population. Maybe what inevitably follows (especially if GW is re-elected) is civil conflict and/or external international opposition and discipline. Maybe there's no avoiding this. Maybe it's time to just hold on tight and hope that external discipline is accompanied by a lot of first aid.

Looking at it this way actually gives me some peace. It's like when I panic over some negative development in my personal life, thinking I'm doomed, until someone points out that this development is perfectly natural, common and often unavoidable in most people's personal lives. Maybe this is just the way a nation develops when it manages to achieve the kind of power the U.S. achieved early in our history. The Roman Empire, the British Empire, etc. all went through it. Maybe it's just our turn now.


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