A Madness Upon the Land


If you’re wondering why the blog has fallen silent in recent days, it’s because  I can only occasionally bear to read (or watch) any news, and even then I can’t take it for more than a few minutes.

Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong in this country.

I find myself thinking, “This can’t go on.  A country cannot [mal]function this way and long continue.  Something essential is going to break, and when it does, the country will cease to exist.  We’ll live in anarchy for a few years, maybe longer, then figure out a way to reconstitute ourselves, probably as a collection of smaller nations.”

But then I remember that, from what little I know, the current madness on the land is pretty much the way politics functioned at all times for the first century-and-a-half of America’s existence, and yet it survived.

So probably we’ll get by this time, too, somehow.  It’s just that our lives will look more like the 19th century (or contemporary Russia) and less like the modern European nations we once rubbed shoulders with.  Hello, old friend Gilded Age, with your patrician governments, your spoils system, your corruption, your anarchists, your robber-barons, your laissez-faire, your non-existent middle class, your labor riots, your rising imperialism, and all the rest.

What’s really bad, though, is that, put off by all the shouting and brawling, I’ll stop caring about public policy and have to find something else to invest my time and mental energy in.  I’m pretty much there now.

Any suggestions?  I’m totally not kidding.

5 Responses to “A Madness Upon the Land”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    We’re certainly in a different set of circumstances, over the last decade or so, than anything in at least 80 years. But why are you feeling this now, instead of any random Thursday from 2000 to 2008?

    The economy is as likely to continue tanking as it is to recover. The current administration is at least trying to accomplish a few things for the common good. Nine republicans voted for Justice Sotomayor. The rest of their party appears to be even more obviously losing touch with reality. A mixed bag, to be sure.

    I think times are going to get tougher, and the result will be to mobilize the downtrodden masses to realize where their self interest lies. Our overlords have not yet achieved their goal of obliterating the middle class. So we have some hope, and it doesn’t all lie with the proles.

    Seriously, Urbino — why give up now?

  2. ME Says:

    I was having the exact same thought this morning, Urbino.

    I guess I thought that a post-partisan president was just what we needed and wanted right now. Apparently, we haven’t climbed that mountain yet and we certainly haven’t past the race thing.

    I’m convinced more than ever that the angst on the wingut/teabag/birther right is mostly about the fact that there’s a person of color in the WH.

    • urbino Says:

      I agree. That’s part of what makes it so ugly. Even though, as a Southerner born and raised and not in a state of denial, I see racism continue and be incorporated into a cultural identity, seeing it return to public respectability like this is, well, shocking.

      As for the president, he’s part of the problem, too. He has already thrown overboard so many of the things he campaigned on that won him such remarkable support, and seems to either be incapable of fighting for the parts he still claims to want, or simply have decided not to fight for them, he just adds to the despair.

  3. urbino Says:

    It’s not so much a matter of giving up, jb, as of just being unable to watch.

    What the right is doing is too ugly, too dangerous, to watch. It ties me in knots. As bad as things were 200-2008, what they’re doing now is somehow worse. I think it’s because before, they were just(!) despoiling the government. Now, they’re despoiling something much deeper and more fundamental. It’s the apotheosis of Nixonian politics. Nothing, nothing, nothing matters but power. Not even the appearance of caring about something other than power. Say absolutely anything. Anything. Outrageous bald-faced lie. Incitement to violence. Stoking racial hatred. Anything. And what’s more, say it immediately. Don’t bother trying to make a reasoned and reasonable argument first. Don’t gradually ratchet up the rhetoric if being reasonable doesn’t work. Don’t even try to maintain the appearance of reasonableness, honesty or even decency. Go straight to the most rancid, corrosive, vesicant, and ugly thing you can think of, and shout it. Over and over. Don’t bother letting the other side give their views, too. If they try to talk, shout them down. (And I’m not even talking about the town hall shouters. I’m talking about the mouthpieces conservatism sends to the media.)

    It’s the utter degeneracy of everything good the Western world has ever produced. It’s the forgetting of everything one needs to know that one learned in kindergarten. The willful forgetting. The casting aside.

    It’s a crying, screaming, punching tantrum until you get your way.

    And it’s not that it’s surprising. I’ve seen things moving this way for a long time, and have documented it here.

    It’s not that it’s surprising. It’s that even when you do see it coming, it’s still so ugly and shocking that you can’t stand to see or hear or even be in the same room with it.

  4. urbino Says:

    As Steve Pearlstein says in his much-linked column today: “Health reform is a test of whether this country can function once again as a civil society…”

    That’s a test we are failing spectacularly.

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