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Moral Turpitude and the Pursuit of More Stuff

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In the not so distant past Americans chose to take the low fork in the road. Material gain over spiritual awareness was the name of the road on which they abandoned their values and their future. Their humanity was whittled away until market forces began referring to them as consumer units. After
9-11, Americans were told to go shopping. That was the best way to diminish their grief - to fight back - to show their patriotism. Americans seemed unaware they'd been grievously insulted - their vast sorrow so easily dismissed, as if Wal Mart could make them whole again.

That trickle down economics was credited as legitimate should have been a grave insult. It asked the majority of Americans to be content, to accept their lot and welcome the crumbs that spilled to their eager, grateful hands from the overflowing cups of the rich. Americans had been effectively told their fortune depended on how much the rich allowed them - that the American dream wasn't true - that if you're not born rich your future depends on their largess. Trickle down. Material gratification, always short lived, offers the illusion of well being but hunger always returns. Rust waits.

Great Art is the inspiration that affords us glimpses into alternative worlds. It's born of the human spirit, and can't be suppressed or denied. It's the mirror in which humanity sees its reflection. It doesn't judge, or condemn, but asks for nothing and gives everything. It can call us back if we wander to close the edge. It tells us who and what we are and where we may be going. It's hated, and feared - it's burned, to eradicate a threat, or an inconvenient truth. Like the phoenix, it will rise from its ashes. It transcends materialism in every guise and form. It's the human spirit made visible, touchable. Great literature, visual art, music - bridge history. They smooth the differences that set race against race, nation against nation. Today, the most prolific form of art is advertisement. The commercial break.

The American way of life is sacrosanct and must be protected at all costs, even as a shared planet is contaminated, and even as the Earth heats from a raging fever of consumptive greed. Americans have allowed their identities to become diluted, cheapened, as their obsession for more material gain displaces their humanity. Americans count their possessions to determine their value as human beings. Far too many know one another, not for who they are, but for what they have. How surprising can it be that political opportunists, once elected to high office, enrich themselves at the public's expense. Nothing is too grotesque to stand in the way of more monetary success, even starting a war.

So commercialized and materialistic have Americans become they're blind to the magnitude of the crime they've allowed to be committed in their names. Hundreds of thousands of perfectly innocent Iraqi's are dead. They were murdered by American bombs as Americans smugly debated whether or not it served their interests - their material interests. Many never asked if it was right or wrong. Didn't consider that an act of such savagery and hatred would reserve them a special place in Hell. Many invoke Christ's name, and his final, unselfish act of love to qualify their indifference to human suffering. No matter the Iraqi people are innocent. The boogie man, Saddam Hussein, is in a cage for all the world to see. We can follow his trial if we like. We are assured he'll be punished, and the media will be there to cover every meaningless detail.

American leaders know the citizens they govern don't want to see graphic details of the carnage they're responsible for. If Americans understood the extent of the horror, they'd begin asking inconvenient questions that have no glib, easy answers. Many Americans would be upset at the sight of a mother, searching through a bombed out hut, looking for a piece of one of her children that she can bury, and God help us, hold just one more time. Pity us. There is no forgiveness for this. We send our children there to commit murder, so we can feel avenged for our pain.

Our children are as innocent as the Iraqis they've been sent to murder. Our leaders tell them they're helping to destroy evil, that if they don't kill there, the war will come here. Kids. Many of them fresh out of high school, with no prospects for the future. They desperately want to believe that what they're doing is noble and good, that sacrificing their lives is worth it if the folks back home can be free, and not have to go through what they're enduring. The crime that has been committed against them is hideous beyond description. It defies human effort to understand the depravity of such leadership, that would seek personal gain at the expense of these kids, these good soldiers, whose highest ideal is to preserve and protect their country. Our leaders, motivated by material greed, sell their phony ideology to these young soldiers whose patriotic spirit embrace and honor us all.

The moral majority theme plays well. Very few people want to think of themselves as anything less than virtuous. Politicians invoke values and morals, and the lack of them, as campaign issues. Thus, it's easily assumed the politician is a good man. Why else would he choose virtue as a campaign theme if he wasn't himself virtuous? His opponent, by definition as such, gives pause for wonder if his virtue is misplaced. Debate, over what matters for the health of the country, is replaced with accusations of moral turpitude. My opponent believes in abortion, gay rights, stem cell research. My opponent would steal your hard earned money to raise taxes. Market research tells the politician what issues voters are negatively and positively affected by. Issues that trigger strong emotional responses are shamelessly exploited. By election day the race has been reduced to noise. Static - meaningless racket - accusatory, unsupported, 30 second sound bytes and another congressman buys a seat. His vote will be used to advance the moneyed interests, and their devotional accruement of all things material. During a campaign, it's doubtful that anyone believes the truth is in much evidence, but sometimes the lie is so blatant, so obvious, it's stunning.
"The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression." H.L. Mencken


"Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, we're going to have kind of a nation-building corps from America? Absolutely not. It needs to be in our vital interest, the mission needs to be clear, and the exit strategy obvious. I'm not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say this is the way it's got to be. I think the United States must be humble ... in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course." GW Bush, pre-election speech.

 

Jon Faulkner is a licensed Master Mariner. He has long considered the conservative republican mindset a form of mental illness. He lives in northern Maine.

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