21st Century Ghost
Strange to think: in a very real sense, my entire adult life has been haunted by George W. Bush. It’s a bit hard to remember life before him.
I live in an America where basic scientific facts have been refuted. Where political discourse has become vicious and ugly and violent – where, speaking with some people, there is a palpable feeling that there is a conversational point that will, once crossed, result in your being physically attacked.
Where – despite some fairly explicit language in the Constitution about the separation of church and state – we’ve twice elected a president who leads from a faith-based perspective and courts like minds, resulting in the intrusion of religion into a staggering number of previously secular realms. Like, y’know. Science. (This is never quite so baffling as periodically reading a story about some local government refusing to take down the 10 commandments plaque from their front lawn – it’s RIGHT THERE IN THE DAMN CONSTITUTION, PEOPLE.)
Where liberal and progressive thought isn’t just met with distrust or distain, but is actually confused with undermining the fundamental belief structures of the nation.
Indeed, where all arguments are a battle between diametrically-opposed ideals. Again, where they needn’t be: In some minds, if you wish we could work with other countries, you must think America is weak and useless.
We live in an America where the question, “Is our government concealing truth from us” has been replaced with, “What technique is the government using to lie to us today?” To such an extent that an alarming amount of what SHOULD BE conspiracy theories have proven at least somewhat true, from “oil companies raised gas prices for no real reason” down to “the government had warning of 9/11.”
Indeed, where arguments boil down to such staggering semantic minutiae that even knowing definitions of words (say, ‘torture’), and applying them to actions (say ‘waterboarding,’), our own elected officials refuse to admit that, well, six of one is a half-dozen of the other.
This has become such a standard operating procedure in our America, that hearing a potential Attorney General say, point-blank, “Waterboarding is torture” is just mind-blowing in its directness. When the reality is he’s just said something so fundamentally obvious he might as well have said, “A tree is a plant.” We’re blown away by his ability to say something that is clearly, obviously true.
That really shouldn’t be. That’s science fiction. Should be, anyway.
The standard condition of everyday life in 21st century America – of every single day since I was 20 years old – has been fighting to get people to agree that 1+1=2. Having to make a constant and decisive argument for things that should already be regarded as basic truths – with no guarantee we’d win.
Science should be used to make decisions.
Governmental money should be used to help people who can’t help themselves.
No government should be able to dictate what a person can and can’t do with their own body.
Wars should be entered into only when there is a direct threat to our national security, and only after every other option has been completely exhausted.
That everyone. EVERYONE – gay, straight, and everywhere inbetween and beyond – has the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And sometimes that means letting them get married.
That ignorance is not something to be admired, and certainly not something to be promoted.
That we should have to make a case for any of these things is beyond me.
I am not saying that life in the 20th century was some kind of awesome secular wonderland where the American people wanted for nothing. But…I don’t remember any real vitriol when Clinton left office. On the other hand, in 10 years when I look back on this past month, I will still recall the feeling that Bush left town juuuuust before he could be physically thrown out.
There is no “Farewell, Mr. President.” There is only “Get the fuck out while you still got legs to carry you.”
The overwhelming enthusiasm displayed for today’s inauguration is absolutely for Barack Obama. But I think even more so the enthusiasm is for a chance to start putting eight years of ghosts to rest.
We’re all just hoping to be haunted by something a little better eight years from now.