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Levees Made of Lies: Rage, Grief, and the Chimera of the American Dream

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An entire American city has become an uninhabitable mire of fetid water, sodden ruins, and toxic sludge. Moreover, the destruction will not end there: the financial, political, and psychological spill-off, incurred by the deluge, will cause our nation to sink further into a morass of debt, denial, and despair.

How did it come to this? How did we come to buy this worthless plot of swampland known as George Bush's America?

Perhaps, at this point, a brief history lesson, for a nation whose populace possesses the collective capacity for long term memory of a Louisiana gnat flurry on a hot afternoon in high summer, might prove helpful. Let's begin with the watershed year of 1968.

After it became increasingly obvious that the Vietnam War was neither a moral nor a winnable cause and, concurrently, on the racially riven domestic front, when a sense of hopeless rage among inner city African Americans, engendered by centuries of racism and its attendant disparities of wealth and equality, lit the spark of urban riots -- Richard Nixon, by promising he had a "secret plan" to end the war in Southeast Asia and vowing he would restore "law and order" to the nation's streets, was able to slither into the White House. Yet, within a few years time, it was revealed that Nixon's plan (to be more accurate, scheme) would prolong the war for years, causing hundreds of thousand of unnecessary causalities, and, in general, would screw over all concerned. As for his law and order policy, it consisted of a covert plan to take crime off of the streets and place it back within the corridors of official power where it belongs.

But an unwashed, unruly mob of sticklers for constitutional process got lucky, that round, and they brought Nixon down. And, for our anti-American sins of self-doubt, we received Jimmy Carter, who delivered cardigan-draped bromides of thrift and Sunday school sermons of self-restraint and personal sacrifice ... and that sort of thing drove people to cocaine and disco.

Moreover, the high cost and banality of (not to mention brain-damage incurred by) those activities left the nation susceptible to the platitudinous, confidence man assurances of power and prosperity, without sacrifice, promised by Ronald Reagan. As, all the while, through the nineteen-eighties, George W. Bush hid himself among mountains of the afore-mentioned disco marching powder and Arnold Schwarzenegger brandished fists full of anabolic steroids, creating for himself a body that is a precise metaphor for his adopted land -- a nation that worships the appearance of strength, but whose interior life is as stunted as that of a narcissistic bodybuilder, a preening twit for whom the larger world serves no greater purpose than for the adoration of his over-sized, oil-lacquered muscles.

More and more, the American mind began to suffer from steroid-induced psychosis. Worse, our self-absorption was only surpassed by our paranoia: The proxy armies of the Evil Empire awaited the command from their Kremlin masters to attack and enslave us; homosexuals plotted to destroy the American family, thereby leaving aimless children adrift and easy prey for conversion by skulking sodomites; civil liberty advocates employed legalistic weasel words to hamstring the police and thwart the legal system, giving criminals carte blanche to roam the streets and commit crimes with impunity, while their Welfare Queen mothers cushioned their posh asses on the leather seats of Cadillacs and cruised city streets trading Food Stamps for crack cocaine. Then matters grew far, far worse.

In the early nineteen-nineties, came a threat to everything we hold sacred in Christendom: Bill Clinton. Although, godly souls need not have worried -- he turned out to be simply a Sybaritic salesman of global neo-liberal economic colonialism. Furthermore, Bill Clinton did Ronald Reagan one better: he b*tch-slapped those Welfare Queens so hard their taxpayer-subsidized gold teeth rattled. Across the land, good Christians paused to listen to the satisfying thwap.

George W. Bush has shown us an even more blessed path to salvation: He has revealed to us how we can ascend to heaven -- by climbing the stacked corpses of the poor. In the meantime, he will carry out Christ's admonition to give succor to the truly deserving -- to the members of the true welfare state -- all those needy Haliburton contractors in Iraq.

While domestically, with the intention of protecting us from rising rivers of reality, Bushco., a division of Cheney Inc., a subsidiary of JesusCorps and NeoConico have tirelessly labored to keep us safe from the possibility of ever being so much as touched by a droplet of truth. Therefore, they have constructed for us a shoddy levee system of lies ... Beneath which, we, inhabiting ad hoc, flimsy structures, live below sea level of self-awareness, all the while, choosing to call this misnomer made manifest -- life.

Meanwhile, like the waters of the Mississippi River flooding into Lake Pontchartrain, the waters around us have begun to rise towards the tipping point.

And thus far, we Americas have risen to meet the challenge of these perilous times -- by dozing off before our televisions. With crumbs of Doritos stippled in the folds of our double chins and upon our sagging chest, the garish glow of our sets flickers over our sleep-slackened faces, while the programing fare proclaims that "reality" is now comprised of the stuff of contrived competitions between corporately-neutered, would-be pop stars and of Weather Channel remotes, in which, legions of blow-dried, sub-cretinous blathering heads are dispatched to hurricane-battered coastal regions to be blown about on camera for the amusement of viewers afflicted with a voyeuristic fetish for "live" disaster footage. And it was big fun, until the appearance of floating corpses put a damper on everyone's festive mood.

Inasmuch as the reality of our waking life now includes crushing debt, runaway inflation, due to diminishing oil supplies, global environmental upheaval brought on by global warming (including increasingly destructive cataclysms, such as Hurricane Katrina), and the enmity of the people of the world beyond our shores, in response to our bullying militarism and economic imperialism -- we would have to be a nation of narcoleptics, in the first place, to have ever believed in the existence of this chimera called the "American Dream". For it's not a dream: it amounts to complicity in multiple acts of criminal negligence. And this is the actual criminal activity -- the large scale looting -- that contributed to the destruction of New Orleans.

And the river keeps rising around us.

Why do we Americans accept this pernicious and ultimately self-defeating arrangement? Because we're convinced that it bestows upon us everything we could possibly need and desire. All we need to know and experience is at our twitching, TV remote-happy fingertips. Ergo, we can flip from enactments of explicit porn on one channel, to explicit re-enactments of pornographic Christian prophecy on another; we can transmigrate from fake sin to phony salvation, in an instant ... What else, in the whole of boundless creation, could we possibly want?

And, for our being provided with these comforts and accommodations, the only debt we owe is this: It is mandated that we make unceasing payments, using the scarce currency of the time we have been allotted in this finite world, to our munificent masters of the corporate class -- and only for the duration of our mortal existence ... It's a very simple arrangement: we give them the precious hours of our lives and they keep us sheltered from the unsettling storms that we seed suppressing the knowledge of all the things we have forsaken by said transaction. In short, folks, it's the deal of a lifetime.

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Phil Rockstroh is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at Facebook:

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