August 16, 2004
(Swans - August 16, 2004) I'll date the beginning of the end of America as Beacon with the coming of Barry
Goldwater. With Goldwater, what had been the Party of Lincoln, the Republican
Party, shuddered and collapsed into itself. The implosion was to mature as the
obdurate Southern Democrats morphed into the hard-assed Republican
supremacists typified by Bible-Belt haters and Sun-Belt gimme folks.
On one side, George Wallace and Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott, came to typify the now mainstream Republicans who are drowning America as Beacon. The Sun-Belt contributed Goldwater, Nixon and Reagan. Connecticut and Texas gave us Bushes. And it is the Bushes who lead us into today's darkness.
I won't wander around all the parallel events crowding the last forty or so years of the 20th century. Nor will I work at defining what is involved with America as Beacon. If you don't know what a beacon may be or how America was seen as a beacon of hope throughout the world in spite of its darker actualities, then there is little probability that naming names and describing hope will get through to you.
Key processes which etched into stark focus with the millennial years, 2000 and 2001, are symbolized by Florida, an American state in the far southeast of the country. The north of Florida links tightly with the Old South still clutching at the tainted glories of The Confederacy, loser of the Civil War of 1860-1865. Moving south, the Orlando-centered Disney World as epitome or pinnacle of illusion permeates a huge hunk of Florida west toward the Gulf side.
On the Atlantic side, from Daytona south, glitz world hangs tightly to the beaches all the way to Key West. The sharp contrasts of supreme wealth and abject poverty to be found along the strip are muddied or stereotyped by Bronx-South and Cuba/America. Sugar plantations, modern-day links to a slavery driven economy, grab at the drained Everglades teetering on ecological disaster. Florida is a complexity wrapped up in surging energies and decadent mindsets.
With the election of Jeb Bush as Florida's governor, nuanced and patterned processes embraced again age-old racisms and ended up clobbering the once staunch Republican shibboleth of States Rights as well as anointing brother George as president.
As president, George W. Bush deployed his team of twelve or fifteen key people who have become identified as Neo-Cons about whom I have written prior commentaries. The anointed president calls himself Born Again and gathers to his heart the Bible-Belt haters while perversely embracing the Al-Saud and Al-Wahab who are burning with the other One God.
Meanwhile, across the planet up in the harsh mountains and seared plains of Afghanistan, the Great Game for control of Central Asia (oil and gas to the west, India and Pakistan to the south, Russia to the north and China to the east) seduced the Soviets and closed the Cold War. Perversely then, America turned against the light and shut down hope.
Ignorance of history and arrogance of office tempted successive American Presidents (Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and now Bush II) to play with the very fierce fires of Islam. Children learn early to keep fingers away from flame. America's recent presidents forgot their childhood. Bush II gives no hints he is burning.
America's economic and now cultural dependence on imported energy derived from petroleum leaves us driving ever-huger vehicles and defending distant lands ruled by Old Testament patriarchs driven by a One God who is not America's. That same One God who is not America's inflames fundamentalist sects such as Saudi Arabia's Wahabis. They preach an undying hatred and fill new generations with death lusts.
Another dozen or fifteen younger men mostly from Saudi Arabia commandeer four commercial flights and crash them into twin towers of New York and Pentagon of Washington D.C. While this 9/11 event was traumatic to America's image of indestructibility, the other dozen or fifteen attached to George W. Bush have used 9/11 to expand definitions of lethal destruction exponentially.
Using this catastrophe as excuse, the lights of America as Beacon are then instantly shut down as the dozen or fifteen Neo-Cons of George W. Bush implement secret plans. The once open gates of America shut with a sharp clang. The Statue of Liberty closes. Millennial hopes, peace dividends, openings to inclusiveness, pluralism and diversity goals blink out.
Those who crash planes into New York and Washington need do no more. America's beacon is shut down. Fear and containment dominate America under the Bush who has shut off the light.
America now spends more to combat "Drugs" and "Terrorists," as numbers, said to represent a few thousand commanding a sparse count of conspiratorial cells, than to contain the once Soviet Union known to hold millions under arms and committing billions to genuine weapons of mass destruction.
Fear and containment of its own people now characterize the United States of America. A picture of a New York cop in full battle dress with a huge and very lethal assault weapon in front of a Wall Street sign now represents America as Security State, America as militarized state.
Other pictures of American military personnel toying and torturing at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad now represent America as imperial aggressor working out of Saddam's old palaces and torturing in Saddam's old prisons. Imitating Israeli practices, American bulldozers demolish orchards, fields and homes in Iraq. The ruins of antiquities said to represent the roots of Western civilization in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley fall to Tomahawk missiles. The Tree of Life near Basra in Iraq dies cut off from nourishing waters.
People of other minds, people for whom hope is extinguished, people equipped with simple weapons, without body armor or elaborate uniforms, dash themselves against a frightening technology of lethality to show the core impotence of military force substituted for both wisdom and compassion.
End of beginning? Beginning of end?
In the darkness, we may see some faint light.
Fire is managed by keeping it in place, in perspective. To contain the fires of that other One God, one key step is to rekindle America as Beacon. We do this by living our ideals rather than savaging them.
We don't need to invade Grenada or Panama. We don't need to subvert the legitimate aspirations of peoples of El Salvador or Guatemala. We don't need to deny the oppressed and dying millions of Africa. We don't need to determine America by politically induced dependence on foreign energies.
We need to encourage and to support appropriately the hopes of billions. We need to go to the Moon and Mars of energy alternatives. We need to allow other peoples to make their own decisions about what is important to them. We need to stand aside to allow more moderate peoples to make more moderate choices for themselves.
At home, we begin by exposing and reforming the voter registration and election processes now so contaminated by the experiences in Florida, Georgia and more recently of Riverside County, California. As Enron typifies capitalism gone berserk, so Florida typifies politics gone mad.
We need to return the Republican Party to positive processes. We need to take the hate out of religion. We need to share more than hoard.
We begin by ousting the twelve or fifteen who go when George W. Bush goes.
While, given the many years it has taken to construct and to put in place those who have shut down America as Beacon, we cannot expect instant changes for the better, we have to begin at the beginning. Clean out the dirt, open the windows, let in some light, rekindle the torch and keep it bright.
Follow the light away from fear and open us up again as a people, as a Beacon.
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