When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, I had just turned 19 and was in college. When Lyndon B. Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater for the presidency in 1964 I was old enough to vote. I have seen many presidents come and go – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama. In 2016, this will be the thirteenth go around for me. I have had to endure so many unfolding conflicts and outright wars – too numerous to mention - around the globe as the United States established global hegemony and has attempted to maintain that hegemony by creating the costliest and most sophisticated war machine in the history of human civilization. The apparently endless utilization of deadly force to ensure our continued global dominance has, in my judgment, adversely impacted the national psyche.
The establishment of such a formidable array of weaponry and advanced technology has extracted so many resources from the American economy that many of the social ills and conditions that befall this society as a direct result of the scarcity of wealth have been allowed to fester.
Over the course of my adult life, I have felt compelled to be involved in many protest movements including those centered around the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the disastrous Gulf Wars. In my later years I have relocated my protestations from feet to pen.
I must make the following confession – I have never witnessed a domestic political landscape as bleak as the current one (2016). The political and social environment is ridden with greed, divisiveness, ignorance, intransigence and often unmitigated stupidity. Over the temporal landscape that encloses these years I have tried my best to avoid falling into the abyss of despair and hopelessness; this has become a challenging exercise.
This American experiment in governance is now some two-hundred and twenty-eight years old. In my mind all the indicators suggest that our civilization is on the decline. Twenty-five percent of our children live in poverty; many individuals are homeless or nearly so; adequate and quality health care is rationed on the ability to pay leaving many burdened with unnecessary suffering and shorter lifespans; those plagued by mental illness are often left untreated; random acts of violence using weapons widely available have become quite ordinary; the prison system is overflowing with the poor and people of color; the national infrastructure is in desperate need of attention; the prospects of climate change are regarded by many as a fantasy fabricated by an elaborate scientific conspiracy; unmitigated greed is rampant and regarded as a “normal” aspect of doing business.
These problems are formidable in severity and scope. Yet, our mass-oriented culture has become escapist somehow believing that if we pay no attention to them they will quite magically disappear. They are not amenable to cure through a political infrastructure that has been so effectively commandeered by the wealthy. Either there is a collective awakening to the stark reality that surrounds us; or, we will steadily continue on this seemingly inexorable path to decline. History is quite unforgiving in this regard.