In the Meantime What Was Happening at Home?
On the home front a set of similar phenomena was set in motion that led to a sea change in American values—induced, not natural. Little by little, principally but not exclusively under Republican administrations, priceless American values have been eroded beyond recognition. Where they once had a measure of solidarity—“…unity of a group or class that produces or is based on a community of interests, objectives and standards…” Merriam Webster dictionary—the Americans now subscribe to the “every man for himself,” or “dog eat dog” philosophy. Where they once respected the hard-earned dollar they now lust after easy money. A majority of Americans used to believe in equality. Their racial politics are now turning increasingly racist or white supremacist. As for economic equality, that is a thing of the past. They have exchanged generosity for greed.
Remember open-mindedness? You might have noticed that it has largely given way to adherence to one orthodoxy or another. Simple kindness and good manners are yielding to bare-fisted rudeness and trumpulence. Truth-telling, especially telling truth to power, is on the way out. It can actually be dangerous. As for the “official truths,” they are products of the most sophisticated systems of lying ever foisted upon the human race.
Critical Thinking, Anyone?
Where there once existed a healthy current of critical thinking in the U.S.A., along with citizen activism and protest, that luxury is now relegated to admirable old timers like Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and a few others. The very word “think” has been debased with its use by the septic think tanks which abound around Washington. Now thinking has been replaced by blind faith. Common sense has become common nonsense, and knowledge belief. So much of the common currency in the U.S.A. is “faith-based.” Too many people have forgotten—or never learned—that anything faith-based is baseless. If you’ve been taught otherwise you’ve been duped.
Then there’s patriotism; what a tricky subject. Let’s try a Spanish approach to it. The Spanish have two words for two different varieties of patriotism. “Patriotismo” refers to the healthy love of country that exists around the world. They employ another word, “patrioterismo,” for patriotism wedded to aggressive nationalism, jingoism or chauvinism. This brand of self-serving patriotism is a favorite of demagogues who like to wrap themselves in the flag and appeal to voters’ prejudices and lowest instincts in order to advance the demagogue’s own political agenda. The American language doesn’t make this distinction but it should, as patrioterismo is rampant over there. Last but far from least is the most extreme—and dangerous—form of patriotism, that which implies full spectrum dominance, patriotism that kills. And there’s no shortage of that.
The Unasked Question
There is one last question that usually is left unasked. How did the powerful interests who dumbed down and vulgarized the American people get away with it? What was the secret that enabled them to steal, twist, degrade and substitute healthy, humane American values for cheap imitations based on consumerism, ignorance, greed and selfishness? It’s no secret really. It’s just good marketing, the same time-tested sales techniques that made the United States the greatest salesman in the world. Promise them dreams, promise them flash and pan, promise them fast online sex and easy money in financial services. Activate the powers of ego and envy. Pitch to the lowest common denominator. Who sells more, Walmart or Neiman Marcus? There you have it. That’s where America’s decency—and with it her greatness—went.
The United States Has Metamorphosized; Where’s the Butterfly?
So much for the metamorphosis of American values over the past half-century and a bit. That’s what derailed the decent, “normal” America. Now to find a “decent, normal country” you have to go to places like Canada, or Europe, Australia or Japan. Japan is a country deeply steeped in centuries of pride and respect, a country where American President Donald Trump gave a speech the other day to their combined legislature, the National Diet. It was a solemn occasion. There the President of the United States admonished them in his own brand of diplomacy. He said, “Don’t underestimate me; don’t try me…”
With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re not on the streets of Detroit or Baltimore. You’re in a civilized country, addressing civilized people.
Needless to say, none of the respectful Japanese reminded him of that fact. Which is not to say they have forgotten what he said.
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