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Return of the Malaise

By       Message John Grant       (Page 2 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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It is the rare politician (Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders comes to mind) who has the backbone to raise any of this as an issue. Instead, we get highly entertaining and personable people who bullshit us on how things are tough but the glory days are not over. Then, we are told those who complain are to actually to blame for their failure to be good cheerleaders -- or as Spiro Agnew put it, "nabobs of negativity."


To focus on the negative is to hate America. It's like the two-year-old who covers his eyes and assumes no one can see him.


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          The Real Problem Is Us


All this adds up to one difficult fact: The onus of blame for the wretched state of affairs we're in needs to be shifted from the politicians all Americans love to scapegoat to we the people ourselves. We're all complicit (some more than others) and we have the government we deserve.

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Jimmy Carter tried to break this cycle with his famous "malaise" speech. Mondale tried to be honest about the need for taxes. But the consequent ascendancy of the Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan made it clear what direction America was headed: In a word, toward more bullshit. Reagan was probably the best bullshitter ever to sit in the White House. Instead of a world-view and policies based on the tough realities of a declining America, we got an incredibly scripted and symbol-ridden master narrative that assured American there was no malaise here. No, we were "a shining city on a hill" and taxes were for chumps.


Those that followed -- the Bushes, Clinton and now Obama -- all learned the Reagan lesson well. None of these Presidents had -- or in the case of Obama, has -- any interest in making a speech that starts out:


"My fellow Americas, the fun is over. The days of glory and 'shining cities on a hill' are over -- at least for the time being. We have damage to repair. America and Americans must find a new vision based on the need to conserve our resources and figure out how to live together more peacefully with less."

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At this juncture, the responsible no-bullshit politician would have to add some boilerplate platitudes and say: "When faced with crises, Americans always rise to the occasion. We are a good, generous, cooperative people, and that is what we have to encourage now in this time of crisis."


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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)

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