I woke up this weekend feeling a need to share a growing concern of mine. Events conspired to keep me from writing the piece when it was dominating my thoughts, but this morning I have the time to try to capture it coherently enough to share it on this blog.
Is our country, our grand democratic experiment, failing? Increasingly, I'm afraid that it is.
At the risk of sounding paranoid, I feel like our country is under attack. Not from the usual bogeymen touted (if I hear Bush make about one more "fear-mongering speech"about terrorists, I'll scream), but from super-rich corporate moguls. Terrorists may kill a few of us, but we are systematically beginning to allow many of us to kill ourselves and each other.
Our country's government is one of the few entities left in this world that has the power and clout to restrain corporate greed and make the large corporations and super-rich individuals police themselves and watch out for the well-being of the average person. As a country, we've put regulations and restrictions in place because we've had to, after corporations or individuals have gotten so greedy that they put their own profit-making above other people's lives and health.
All of that is now in jeopardy. Regulations are under direct frontal attack, and have been for years.
Even more disturbingly to me, our country's government is being systematically weakened by being overburdened by debt, underfunded, and chronically maligned. Many branches of our government are now so poorly staffed and funded that they barely function, yet the mantra is always, "No new taxes," and "Make government smaller." After all of this time in Iraq, our military is almost broken too.
The government is nothing more than the citizenry itself, acting collectively, paying a few individuals to do jobs that need to be done but that don't generate money in and of themselves. WE, as citizens, ARE THE GOVERNMENT. It is acting on OUR behalf. If it is failing, it is because we are letting it fail.
Who will benefit from our government falling apart? Not us "average Joe citizens," for sure. But corporations will. They already are. They are becoming increasingly free to pay slave wages, thoughtlessly pollute, produce defective and deficient products, and make obscene profits. The elite who run the biggest of these corporations are rapidly becoming global citizens who are above any country's laws and who are so rich and powerful that they can literally control what people all over the world hear about and discuss.
What will it take to wake our country's citizens up enough to pay attention and take control of their own government again? It's time to quit listening to 30 second sound bites touting "moral values" and to pay attention to what our leaders are actually doing and who they are actually taking care of.
If we don't actually take the time and energy to act as citizens and hold our leaders accountable for their actions, we will end up losing our democracy. Most of us will become powerless, exploited and underpaid serfs whose labors will benefit the new economic aristocracy.
This is beginning to happen already. The time has come to act, if we want to nip this backslide in the bud. Let's live up to our country's ideals and take back the control of this country, putting it once again into the hands of an active, educated, democratic citizenry.