Sometimes I wonder what has happened to America. This is not the country where I grew up and came of age. Not the country that shaped my worldview, that forged the ideals I hold dear.
We were the good guys. We did the American dream as it was intended.
Maybe the 80's were the turning point.
The post war period was the America I came of age in. The America that was coming to grips with the dismantling of our shameful apartheid. We were struggling in learning to treat women as people.The fight for equality for LBGT Americans was in its infancy, nascent but growing as an idea whose time was near.
Unions had not been decimated. A minimum wage job was a starting place but you could live on it. Higher education was still affordable for any who wanted it. Class was something that could be overcome in our society. We were a shining city on a hill, a beacon of hope, freedom and equality..
Of course there were fits and starts. Nixon comes to mind. His prime legacy was a deep abiding mistrust of our government and those in it. Even so, he was talking of national healthcare but got distracted by a burglary in '72. The EPA was created on his watch. He opened China to the world and helped us pull back from decades of cold war brinkmanship with the Soviet Union. Nixon's rampant paranoia was the venal bastard's undoing.
We wandered through the 70's in a daze, a hangover from the 60's tumult and anarchy. And Vietnam. Many of us boomers changed course and became what we once despised. And in far too many ways we were far worse. The quest for money and status as success was for many an obsession.
Many of privileged avoided serving using the very draft deferments they condemned for those opposed to that tragedy in Southeast Asia. They honed their contempt for those not like them. Others that dodged the war they supported for the masses were developing a worldview diametrically opposed to American tradition.
We saw the Cheneys and the Rumsfelds move into mid level positions in Republican Administrations. As we staggered through the 70's they moved upward as they developed and pushed their ideals. It was eventually called Neo-Con for New Conservative. They were actively rejecting the conservatism of William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. These Neo-Cons aligned themselves with the worst of the American ideologues. They took Nixon's Southern Strategy of playing to fear and racism and made it a driving force towards winning. They saw division, distrust and racism as a winning recipe for power. For reshaping America to embrace their views. They wanted to drive a stake through the heart of The New Deal and Great Society.
These men went after unions as a major threat. They demonized those that disagreed. Any who opposed them were liberal. That was a term they took ownership of, making it obscene. The equivalent of Commie. Of Socialist. Of America haters. In disarray, the Democratic Party fled from many of their ideals to avoid being tarred with that liberal brush. The clear differences between the parties started to blur in the 80's.
Ronald Reagan became the face of the new Republican Party. He parleyed two terms as Governor of California into becoming President. Eighty was close. Eighty-four was a landslide.
Ronnie slashed taxes for the wealthy. Reagan pushed the idea that government was the problem. He demonized moderate Dems as liberals. He pushed the drive to decimate the Union movement. Reagan was intent on unleashing unfettered capitalism by trying to do away with "job killing regulations". The very regulations that protected Americans from harm. He followed the playbook written by a truly evil genius, Lee Atwater. Lee's descendants are active today, driving GOP policy and election strategy.
Reagan changed us from a lender to a debtor nation. He raised taxes as the deficit exploded. Too little. Too late. He took advantage of geo political trends and helped push the USSR into oblivion. His present disciples see him as doing it singlehandedly. It was the result of forty plus years of concerted pressure from the United States and Europe.
The world did rejoice as the Berlin Wall was demolished, the Warsaw Pact disintegrated and the Soviet Union collapsed. We had no plan for the aftermath. The Neo-Cons stepped into the void.
The Reagan years set the stage for our modern political landscape. The standard bearers for these culture wars came to maturity under Saint Ronnie. In was then the us versus them mentality took root, dividing the nation as we struggled for identity following the end of the cold war. Being the last remaining Superpower was enticing to those who saw an opportunity to expand American power and influence abroad. They envisioned an imperial America and the dawn of Empire. Of course it was never phrased that way.
Our attention shifted from Moscow as we let it collapse into anarchy. We stood by as the Soviet nuclear arsenal was held by assorted break away states. We were more concerned with regaining our influence in the oil fields of the middle east. We saw a concerted policy to reestablish American policy and power that had diminished following the fall of the Shah of Iran.
We increased ties with the Saudis. We supported Iraq as they fought Iran to a stalemate. That support included chemical and conventional weapons.
As Iraq moved to occupy the power vacuum left in the region by the Soviet collapse we pulled our support and treated our former proxy as a rogue power.
Then came the first Gulf War. We established a presence in the Arab monarchies that continues to this day. We supported the opposition in Afghanistan to the Soviet occupation then abandoned them following the pull out. The result was the Taliban.
As we kept a military presence in the region we saw the rise of groups like Al Qaeda. .
We blasted through the nineties oblivious to what we had wrought. We were too busy making money to see what was coming. Dissident voices were ignored. America was engaged in the first battles of the culture war that is currently crushing the gains of the last one hundred and twenty years.
A two term President was hounded and vilified by the GOP. Clinton was eventually impeached by a Republican House who knew it would never clear the Senate. Political theater as policy was now a tool of the burgeoning right. A Texas Governor was poised for a run at the office held by his father.
In the background we saw the religious right seize the primary process of the GOP. They allied with those who were the products of twenty years of the Southern Strategy. These "conservatives" establishment conservationism replacing it with discredited strong States and weak Federal government point of view. In essence they rejected views and lessons learned since the Civil War. Any who disagreed were cast aside as secularists. As Un American. As haters waging war on Christianity. These new Republicans pushed the party to the right. They were unforgiving. They viewed compromise, the lifeblood of a republican form of government as surrender.
Under George W.Bush we saw a surplus squandered. Tax cuts for the wealthy. The acceptance of the myth of the job creators. We saw a Republican controlled House and Senate rubber stamp prolifigate spending. Vice President Chaney famously said, deficits don't matter.
We saw the Neo-Cons, now in power make their move to establish American dominance at the end of a gun.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis as cold warriors were calling for a first strike against Cuba, Robert Kennedy remarked that America doesn't strike first. That's not who we are.
In the first Administration of the twenty-first Century we saw that ideal crushed and swept aside.
September 11, 2001 we saw the attack on America, live on TV. We saw the Pentagon smoking. We saw the wreckage of an airliner smoldering in a Pennsylvania field. We watched, live, the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
The world was with us. NATO invoked Article 5 of the charter for the first time. That states an attack on one is an attack on all. the terrorist strike was identified as being planned and directed from Afghanistan. We attacked with NATO support and pushed the Taliban out of power.
Then the Bush Administration began banging the drums of war turning to Iraq.
Iraq was bottled up. Yet it was portrayed, falsely, as collaborating on the September 11 attacks. The Bush Administration knew this wasn't true. They portrayed Iraq as on the verge of having a nuke to use on us or Israel. They also knew this wasn't true.
The new Bush doctrine was The United States would strike first if we felt endangered. This abandoned two centuries of US policy that war should be a last resort. It diminished the role of diplomacy in favor of expanded military options.
When George H.W. Bush decided to invade Kuwait in response to Iraqi aggression he did so with the backing of the United Nations and the Arab League. There was a coalition of States from the region to push Iraq out of Kuwait.
When his son decided to launch an unprovoked attack on Iraq there were few who joined in the ensuing war. The partners were few and the contribution small when compared to the size of American deployment.
We also struck first.
The war did not divide the nation like Vietnam did a generation earlier. You can than a excellent public relations push through the media by the Bush Administration. The public had been convinced by the selected use of leaks and released intelligence to paint a threat where there was none.
The right wing rallied around the war wrapped in the flag. Any not on board were demonized as soft on terrorism. Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld called those opposed appeasers. He went there recalling the specter of a Hitler unleashed on Europe. This was the first time since Vietnam my loyalty and patriotism had been questioned for not falling in line.
I was enraged by that.
Those of us that saw through the charade that was presented as fact were vilified as cowards and anti American. I heard the same flawed arguments directed at us from Vietnam. We were undermining the war effort. We were not patriotic. We were a de facto fifth column giving comfort and hope to the enemy.We hated America and the troops.
Well, I decided I put up with the love it or leave it shit once before. Not this time.
Almost immediately we saw just how unprepared we were for this fight. We saw how badly the plan unraveled.
We went in with far too few troops for the mission. We did not have the troops to maintain security after we eliminated what police forces that were there. We allowed the welcome to turn into resentment and hatred. Sectarian violence exploded as there was nothing in place to do the basic operations a citizenry expects from the government. Food. Water. Power. Safety.
Our troops were poorly equipped. There was a shortage of body armor. The Humvees were unarmored and quickly became targets. We were enmeshed in a struggle for power between factions that had simmered for decades under Saddam.
We reallocated resources from Afghanistan to Iraq.
America squandered the world's goodwill, sympathy and support.
Here at home there was growing opposition to the war. People like me who had been quiet since the Sixties became reanimated.
In 2004, Bush nearly lost to John Kerry showing how unpopular his policies had become. Bush misread the election results and saw a mandate where none existed. With his radical Republican allies he sought to dismantle Social Security. He had his ass handed to him. His domestic policies were met with stiff opposition. In the 2006 midterms the GOP lost the House and Senate.
During this America saw our troops returning to a underfunded and unprepared VA. Troops were sent on multiple deployments due to there not being a military large enough to carry out the assigned missions. Under Bush we saw how the military is treated by the GOP. Fights over proper funding of the VA. Ignoring the plight of our troops as they tried to reenter society.
All during this the far right wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross attacked those Americans not in lockstep with the agenda as Un American. Michelle Bachman suggested members of Congress be investigated as to whether they were true Americans.
The Bush Administration carried the wars off the books as we saw record spending. For the first time in our nation's history we cut taxes as we went to war. Wall Street was unwatched as it turned the economy into a casino.
The economy crashed. Bush put together a package to bail out banks and investment firms. An aid package was put together to save the last of our major manufacturing base,the auto industry. These moves came at the end of his two terms.
The day Barack Obama took office he was blamed for all the debt accrued in the previous eight years.
Since the election of the first black President we have seen America sink into a vicious, far right conspiracy fueled quagmire.
We see Republican members of the House and Senate reject science. We see them declare law must be based on Christian principles. The President has been assailed by blatantly racist theories. His policies have been obstructed. It is a clear case of politics over the well being of the nation.
They are attacking the old, the poor, women and students. The nation is forced to turn it's back on those in need. The nation is depicted as split between takers and makers. No job? Lazy. Women are too stupid to make decisions regarding their health and futures so the state must do it for them. Christianity is under attack. Science is a liberal plot. Education indoctrinates a hatred of God. People go state to state looking for the best welfare. Ensuring healthcare is tyranny. Gays and independent women have destroyed America.
I can not remember a time when sanity was under attack from so many sides.
Like I said I will not be called a traitor for my beliefs.
To top everything off, I am bi polar. With this disease comes anger. At times it is overwhelming. Part of the way I am surviving, with no healthcare, is directing it into something constructive. I oppose the destruction of this nations ideals by a vocal, uninformed, delusional minority.
So I have become active. I feel the anger and passion I had as I opposed the status quo in the sixties. We ended a war and brought down a presidency. We pushed America towards it's promise lit by the 18th century revolution.
Hell yes I'm angry. It's a burning white hot anger fueled by injustice and nurtured by my disease. An anger I am cursed with that I use to stand and say no. No farther. My hyper periods give me energy to fight. My depressive periods gives me the quiet to eventually gather my thoughts. I may be a voice in the wilderness but, I am empowered by the belief that someone wants to know where we are. And where we are going.
A sense of purpose. Watch out. I'm not going away.