I haven’t been sleeping at all well lately — that’s an understatement. I tend to go to bed at around 10 or 10:30 when I can’t even keep my eyes open, and then wake up around 2 or 3am and try by force of will to shut them, which usually doesn’t work at all. If I’m lucky I might fall back asleep around 4 to lie in restless semi-unconsciousness until the fornicating birds shrieking outside my window wake me back up as the sun rises.
Sometimes I just give up and pull up the iPad to read in bed for a while. That’s often a bad outcome — last night, I’m just browsing in the dark and come across “We Are Living in a Failed State”. It’s about time we noticed. I knew we were doomed when Ronald Reagan started spewing that “shining city on a hill” nonsense, which meant our leaders were lying to us and to themselves, and setting up a ridiculous fdcade to conceal real problems that needed real solutions, and worse, were actually all about building an intolerant theocratic state. But at least now in 2020, with disaster all around us, a few people are awake enough to tear down the false front.
Every paragraph in the article is a laser that burns away the propaganda our government has accreted around itself.
This was the American landscape that lay open to the virus: in prosperous cities, a class of globally connected desk workers dependent on a class of precarious and invisible service workers; in the countryside, decaying communities in revolt against the modern world; on social media, mutual hatred and endless vituperation among different camps; in the economy, even with full employment, a large and growing gap between triumphant capital and beleaguered labor; in Washington, an empty government led by a con man and his intellectually bankrupt party; around the country, a mood of cynical exhaustion, with no vision of a shared identity or future.
If the pandemic really is a kind of war, it’s the first to be fought on this soil in a century and a half. Invasion and occupation expose a society’s fault lines, exaggerating what goes unnoticed or accepted in peacetime, clarifying essential truths, raising the smell of buried rot.
The virus should have united Americans against a common threat. With different leadership, it might have. Instead, even as it spread from blue to red areas, attitudes broke down along familiar partisan lines. The virus also should have been a great leveler. You don’t have to be in the military or in debt to be a target—you just have to be human. But from the start, its effects have been skewed by the inequality that we’ve tolerated for so long. When tests for the virus were almost impossible to find, the wealthy and connected—the model and reality-TV host Heidi Klum, the entire roster of the Brooklyn Nets, the president’s conservative allies—were somehow able to get tested, despite many showing no symptoms. The smattering of individual results did nothing to protect public health. Meanwhile, ordinary people with fevers and chills had to wait in long and possibly infectious lines, only to be turned away because they weren’t actually suffocating. An internet joke proposed that the only way to find out whether you had the virus was to sneeze in a rich person’s face.
It’s not a perfect summary, though, because it omits one critical target. It fails to discuss the contribution our failed media is making to the problem. Rupert Murdoch is briefly mentioned in passing, but no analysis of American failure is complete without pinning media moguls to the dissecting tray and taking a scalpel to them. Our media is sensationalist and dishonest and backed up by the ruling class and their money; stories are only as good as the number of eyeballs and clicks they gather, which translates into advertiser money, which roots the media directly in filthy loam of capitalism.
For instance, right now the hot stories that dominate the media are tales of protesters descending on state capitols in their shiny $40,000 pickup trucks, waving guns and Confederate flags, and pretending to be true Workers, needing to have stay-at-home orders lifted so they can get back to work producing food and manufactured goods for the American People. Actually, they’re shady phonies who want to force service workers to get back into the hair salons and coffee shops to provide them with the luxuries they desire.
Today’s reopen rally organizer Steve Hasty of Murfreesboro says what he misses most is sitting in restaurants and getting free drink refills.
“I hate having to get two iced teas in the drive thru,” he says. pic.twitter.com/373qBIeHof
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) April 20, 2020
These events are sensationalized by the media by putting reporters into the midst of the mobs, where it looks like a mass movement. Step back a few feet, and you see them for what they are…small demonstrations by a scattering of 20 to 200 middle class nuts riled up by Fox News saying ignorant things. For context, think back to the Women’s Marches in 2017 — teeny-tiny Morris, Minnesota, population 5,000, had almost 300 people peacefully protesting in our streets, while the large cities had huge demonstrations of tens of thousands of people.
I don’t trust our media to recall events as far back as three years ago, let alone put current events in perspective.
But enough of the Atlantic, that middle of the road semi-liberal magazine for the comfortably middle-class, like me. You’d expect that kind of site to be full of horrified soft people. Let’s look at the Marine Corps Times, instead, where we can expect to find tough talk and gruff can-do assertiveness, right?
For years I kept one eye on the hysteria and extremism that’s been brewing in America while I covered atrocities half a world away.
Now that I spend more time in the states covering the Rust Belt and Appalachia, I must admit: I’m more afraid now than I ever was in a war zone.
Let me be clear: I’m not afraid of being killed in a gun battle or bombing on American soil, although by the looks of some of those protesters with the semi-automatic, military-style weapons, they appear to be itching for armed insurrection. They may just be waiting for some supreme conspiracy theorist, like QAnon or the president, to give them the green light.
Warzone deaths, while horrible, can at least be instantaneous and painless.
Nowadays, I’m afraid that America’s demise, (not to mention my own), will be slow, agonizing and too much to bear.
The last four-plus years of U.S. happenings have been fraught with the kind of anti-intellectualism and hatred of “outsiders” I’ve seen peddled by inept, tinpot dictators the world over and those with cruel acumen to sustain their tyrannical rules.
I’ve seen some of what’s playing out in America in countries riddled with bullet holes and craters where suicide bombers drove into a crowded market. Before they were destroyed, some of them were pretty nice, stable places.
I’m afraid this hatred of reason and logic that pervades Trump’s daily televised rallies from the White House is just the beginning of our slow painful decay into one of those nations that “once was” much more than it is now.
I should have known. What I’ve seen of the American military, as filtered through my son’s perspective, is less macho swagger and more pragmatic planning for the worst. More cautious realism, at least as long as we don’t look at the higher echelons and the defense contractors (there’s another place where capitalism has poisoned the purpose of the military).
So far, this was great bedtime reading, just what I needed to make sure I wouldn’t get any sleep at all last night.
So I tried turning to the lighter side. David Futrelle is writing about…Andrew Anglin, Rape Gangs, Sex Slavery and Breeding Farms. Yeah, the Nazis are all excited about the prospect of a post-apocalyptic future in which true Aryans get to roam freely over the wasteland, killing the mud people and rounding up the women to work in breeding farms, all for the purposes of fun and to build an army of white men to kill Mexicans. He really hates Mexicans, for some reason which I don’t understand — all the Mexicans I’ve met have been lovely people. Meanwhile, white Americans are fantasizing about Aryan Rape Gangs — that’s what Anglin openly calls them — and enslaving white women.
It makes one almost wish that we had roaming gangs of warriors who would cut down anyone who calls themselves an “Aryan”, flaunts a swastika tattoo, or waves a Confederate flag. Or at least a Republic that openly condemn people who practice such antisocial, antihuman activities.
Oh, well. It was something after learning what horrible corruption and failure that our country has collapsed into to read something that says how much worse it could be. See! A ray of sunshine! We haven’t quite hit bottom yet!