Editor's Note: Over the past few decades, an arrogant Establishment has led the United States on a dangerous course of deindustrialization, empire-building and free-market extremism that brought fortunes to the well-connected of Wall Street and Washington, and declining standards of living for many other Americans.
Now, as the consequences of those policies become bitterly apparent, some Americans are trying to make sense of what happen, as poet Phil Rockstroh does in this guest essay:
From time to time, events unfold that are so large in scope, so all-encompassing in their implications that one's initial response is muted by an inability to categorize it all within the realm of experience.
Previous reference points prove of little service. One's image of oneself and one's place in the world is under siege, perhaps even in danger of being torn away. One stares into the abyss, until the abyss removes its dark shades and makes direct eye contact. The mind buzzes; one's thoughts scuttle in circles like stunned insects.
On a collective basis, we as a nation are living through such a time.
At present, we are witnessing the descending spiral of Icarusian Capitalism; our sacred delusion of the perpetual ascendancy of a god-like market place lies broken in the dust.
Malls and McMansions stand abandoned, desolate as the edifices of forgotten gods, as the come-ons of the salesmen of deregulated capitalism are churned to spittle amid a cacophony of collapsing market platitudes.
And not an uptick in public optimism, nor a surge of euphoria on Wall Street, nor the "invisible hand of the marketplace" sprinkling pixie dust will bring back the Olympian days of 2005, when the wise men of Washington and Wall Street knew the force of gravity was just a myth believed in by those embittered prophets of doom whose only joy in life is fantasizing the fall of their wealthy betters.
It does not matter a damn how many dollars our present day believers of neoliberal tall tales, President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner, pour into the hole in the ground where the crash occurred, a bean stalk, twining skyward towards a golden, debt-negating goose, will not flower forth.
Fortunately, when false convictions fall, it is possible for a leveling of sanity to prevail.
But there can be no more hubristic flights borne on waxen wings. No more multibillion dollar confidence scams from Wall Street. No more smash and grab imperial wars. No more tea parties for the dim and deranged.
Evil of Banality
There is the banality of evil, and then there is the evil of banality. Both, the present era has produced in abundance.
From about the late 1970s to the present, the United States all but ceased manufacturing products and went into the business of manufacturing marketplace hype, baseless fears, and illusionary enemies.
Due to this economic and cultural derangement, a dark tower of self-imprisoning delusions has circumscribed our nation's fate. Is it any wonder the quintessential dark lord of the darkest tower, Dick Cheney, will not exit the scene?
And what will foster real change? Not pleasing sound bites and rousing oratory from President Obama, then a continuance of many of the pernicious policies of his criminal predecessors.
Conversely, the iron gates of Hell must crash closed behind us. The absence of light must grow so unbearable to us that we're willing to ask how is it we arrived in this place and become willing to challenge our most cherished concepts about ourselves and our place in the scheme of things.
That is the sort of "indefinite detention" the nation could use. What is needed is the audacity of hopelessness.
President Obama and the Democratic Congress could have ridden a wave of public discontent towards meaningful reform, but instead they have hugged the shore.
And they seem to be surveying the property, scouting locations to build beach house retreats for their elitist benefactors and the militarist fantasists whose tsunami-sized arrogance wrought the present destruction in the first place.
Meanwhile, right-wing radio haters, like penned dogs, bark into the empty air of their meaningless day. Daily, we negotiate our way through the encompassing banalities and casual brutalities of soft oligarchy, as beneath it all churns the nebulous rage of the powerless that creates an audience for the likes of Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh.
It is high season for those virtuosos of displaced anger, because not only the nation's treasure, but its élan vital, has been squandered inflating the bubble-borne vanities of the ultra-wealthy up to the point of economic immolation.
The elite have perpetrated an act of catastrophic clownishness so massive that it has left the rest of us stunned, and left to pick amid the debris of our exploded hopes. But hopes do not die pretty.
Once dead, they do not rise like the redeemer gods of myth; instead, they stagger about, rotting and snarling like B-movie mummies. They leave us with our mouths tasting of ash. Our hearts choked by dry thistle.
Yet the buffoons of Wall Street and the killer clowns of our militarized Disneyland strut and swagger past the smoking ruins they left behind after their high-end looting spree. In their plundering, the only thing they didn't steal for themselves was any sense of self-awareness.
Or is self-awareness necessary when you're obscenely rewarded for your narcissistic follies? What motivation would a high-chair tyrant have to modify his self-centeredness when he is shielded from the consequences of his bratty machinations?
Why become an honest actor in the realm of human events when one can strut through life with a con artist's inexplicable sense of entitlement?
And what about the rest of us? The financial elite, by means of their bagmen in the Executive Branch and Congress, continue to plunder our hopes for a meaningful future byway of that legal larceny popularly known as the bailout, i.e., the latest transfer of wealth from the bottom upward.
This is why the buffoonish tea-bagger types hoard their resentments. All they've been left with is a heap of fragmented hatreds. Those toxic baubles they store against reality.
Tragically, when not addressed, fear and resentment will increase in intensity and can become an exponentially growing feedback loop of paranoid rage. At present, such a process has created that haunted forest of the airwaves known as right-wing talk radio.
It is the voice of anger feeding off of itself, and it seems dangerously close to reaching the point of hypertrophic breakdown. It is the audio analog of a belief system in exponential decay.
The more the rot increases in the system the more Glenn Beck babbles and weeps. It is physically manifested in the cataclysmic ecosystem of Rush Limbaugh's repulsive bulk, his corpulent carcass is the morbid bloat of unregulated capitalism.
Right-wing hatred is a many headed hydra that feeds on fear and desperation. It cannot be fought by attacking its spindling heads, each of its hissing mouths dripping with black poison.
Instead, one must make thrusts at the noxious heart of the raging beast. But one cannot know where the heart of an external monster beats without suffering the agonies of one's own.
Don't Look to Obama
Accordingly, one must allow one's heart to be broken.
And don't look to Barack Obama's bland charm to mend it. Because the honest grief of the heart provides a point of reference, a foundation of knowledge, as to why the monster is inconsolable in its wounded fury; hence, this provides a strategic starting point as to how to fight it.
And that is why we must release the photographs of torture. Moreover, we must bring public ignominy upon the respectable psychopaths in high places who mandated these policies, plus bring a leveling of shame upon the high-flying, highchair tyrants of high finance who exploded the global economy.
Our ugliness must be public like a frog. The nasty secrets must be revealed; the mortifying pictures gazed upon. Our stomachs should seize up in revulsion. The ordeal must exact such a degree of revulsion within us that we will never again allow these despicable practices to transpire on our watch.
There is a stench of putrefaction rising from beneath our feet. We must uncover the corpses laid under by empire.
Being placated by Barrack Obama's bland charm -- in the same manner we were cowed by George W. Bush's infantile petulance, amused by Bill Clinton's brilliant, bad boy seductions, and drugged by Ronald Reagan's stupefying 1940's Hollywood bromides -- will only defer the reckoning and render us ignorant stooges in the impersonal sweep of history.
As a people, we have a choice: We can be strengthened by embracing uncomfortable truths, or we can grow enervated and enfeebled by pushing them away.
But sadly, Obama is attempting the tried and tested political trick -- used effectively by Washington hacks from Watergate ("Our long national nightmare is over") to Iran-Contra ("We cannot have another failed presidency") -- of inducing the uniquely American trait of Instant Amnesia that has, in the past, allowed the empire to stagger on, repeatedly committing variations of the same crimes, then coddling and protecting the same variety of corrupt elitists responsible, and thereby, reducing the Constitution to tatters and rendering the rule of law to rubble.
But this time, the rot is too deep, the pathology too systemic. Obama's placebo presidency will not stem the hypertrophic decay.
Granted, it was good to evict the previous, psychotic tenants from the property (Although Dick Cheney seems to be stalking the place with his obsessive, media drive-bys.) but that does nothing to repair the collapsing foundation of the structure, its core eaten away by an infestation of anti-democratic termites.
Rather than addressing the core issue, the deterioration of the rights and liberties granted by the U.S. Constitution, President Obama is wallpapering over the rot wrought by the national security state's termite hive mind of authoritarian appetites, that has been, silently, and hidden by darkness, gnawing the house of state to sawdust.
Again our choice: Either open up the decay within the system to the light of day and start the process of rebuilding and renewal, or allow the republic-ravening pestilence to continue unchallenged, hence unabated, and let the nation go bughouse crazy as the house comes down around us to the strains of the insect-brain stridulations of Beck, Hannity, and Limbaugh.