Once upon a time..
... the political landscape in the U.S. didn't seem to look quite like the crater-pocked advertisement for Beautiful Downtown //fill in ravaged city of ideological choice//.
(I had started this article in response to a "challenge" that Alexandra at All Things Beautiful made -- have both the "left" and the "right" join with the the "center" to exchange information about Supreme Court nominee Alito (links, impressions, etc), in a climate that was conducive to actually having discussion, and not a free-fire-zone between the Freepers and Kossacks. However, this article turned into something else, a more general piece about what the state of the nation's discussions has turned into. The "driving" article at All Things Beautifiul is here)
The parties actually were able to work together, no matter which was in the ascendancy, with a concern for doing the nation's business, rather than scoring points off the other, disrupting the nation's business for spite, and trying to completely silence any opposition.
My own partisan view is that the current climate was midwived by Newt's "Contract With America," when the new goal was to get power, both political and personal, and keep it, rather than attend the good of the nation.
We lost the sense and pride of the country as a single nation with many parts.
Now it's "them / us," "rich / poor" "mericuns / immigrints."
Those lines are chalked by both the "right" and the "left," but, again, the "conservatives" seem the more eager to embrace this realm of division and exclusion.
When the Newt made the federal budget a train wreck, twice, because he felt slighted over being put in the cheap seats in Air Force One, that was the sign that the "cons" would no longer attend the nation's business, but their own.
So far, from my (again, admittedly partisan) perspective, the "cons" have been very publicly working the same game since then. The liberals/progressives may have been doing some catch-up of their own, but the pseudo-cons have really gotten the game down pat -- lies about what a candidate really said (just declaim the lie, have some pet columnists slip it into their published opinions, ignore the rebuttal and actual facts, and watch the boulders roll down hill).
Lies about what someone says in public (just *try* to get the pseudo-cons to *source* where Wilson claimed that Cheney sent him to Niger -- they can't source it, but they can sure repeat what they say he said).
And so many lies about the *little* things.
Why lie about so many things, especially that which is so transparently false, and can be *proven* false.
Every little lie erodes the credibility, pebble by pebble.
Why stage-managed "town halls," where party loyalty oaths are required and those with the temerity to voice dissent by asking inconvenient questions, or even by wearing "contrary" t-shirts are subject to rough ejection.
Why parade routes with off-site "free-speech zones?"
While the commentators in Air America may be mimicking the sound of Rush & Dobson, they certainly don't have the audacity -- Dobson claiming, like a 7-year old with a secret handshake "I know something about Miers that you don't" and Rush claiming that Ambassador Wilson never even went to Niger, but just "pocketed the money and lied about where he'd been."
It's no wonder they get indignant when Media Matters tapes the shows and makes the transcripts available for all to see. (And O'Reilly thought he had trouble when he couldn't keep the difference between loofas and falafel straight. )
Was the past really simpler, and less venial?
Or am I yearning for an age of innocence that never was?
Oh, as a nation we've had our terrible times.
Times when we feared the light of day would be subsumed in hydrogen fires.
The Red Scares.
The "Yellow Peril."
"No Irish Need Apply."
When trees truly bore strange fruit.
When Adam, Cain and Abel each fought the other, and the serpent looked on, wearing the mantle of State's Rights.
The years when men, women and children were chattel, and bought and sold.
Some outright as slaves.
Others hidden behind the veneer of "apprentices" and "indentured servants."
But I didn't live through most of those years, and I always wanted to think of my country, and her leaders, as being somehow better than the rest, a cut above the others in the world, where we could be secure in our "Fortress America," our mineral and agricultural bounty, and that we were the "shining city on the hill."
That drew the best and the brightest.
That gave hope to the destitute and desperate.
I can no longer can see my nation as a Miracle of Rare Device.
The brightness has gone from the air.
Will my children ever see that brightness?
Will they see the New Athens arise?
I miss my old America.
I truly do.