Thursday, September 15, 2011

Change for the worse

By Don Klein

I find it difficult to recognize my country these days. I grew up in an America that honored the elderly and respected the law. Now there are those in power who want to cut benefits for seniors and legally manhandle people because they “look different.”

As a child I was taught that the US mainland has never been attacked by foreign forces since the British in 1812 and that we never had lost a war. In the 60 years since then we suffered crippling assaults in Hawaii, New York and Washington and were run out of Vietnam by local insurgents and are on the way to a stalemate in Afghanistan.

I lived through the exhilarating period when America showed the world how racial wrongs could be corrected and how cruel punishment of prisoners would not be abided, but now we have a substantial portion of the population that hates the president because he is not white and others who openly applaud the death penalty and shout “yes” when asked if the uninsured should be left to die instead of getting treatment when sick..

There was a time we built railroads into every nook and cranny of the country and cris-crossed the nation with highways the envy of the world. Today the railroads are a shadow of what they once were and our motor-ways are crumpling with age yet we have a Congress more concerned with austerity than with reality.

We are wracked with fear where we once gloried in our boldness and enterprise. We are becoming more like a banana republic every day as the rich are protected and get richer and the rest of us come closer to poverty. Already one in six America families are at the poverty level. But worse than poverty is the dearth of hope and the increase in fear.

The people have been so conditioned to fear that some passengers on a Denver to Detroit airline flight singled out a woman with Semitic features sitting in the same row with two men of Indian origin as surely up to no good. They reported their suspicions, and the flight crew radioed ahead and the plane was greeted by heavily armed police and the FBI. It was the day of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

The woman, who was half Arab and half Jewish, was an American mother of twins and lived in Ohio. She was dragged off the plane, handcuffed, held incommunicado for hours and strip searched, before the FBI accepted the fact there was no reason to arrest her. She had done nothing wrong other than appear to others as “suspicious/” Fear claimed another victim. She never conversed with the men seated next to her at any time during the flight.

The entire incident which took many hours to resolve and involved the deployment of dozens of police and FBI agents was all for naught because of fear among certain passengers. This is not my America where police are supposed to have reasonable cause to take someone into custody.

This are the ugly faces of Americans seen almost everywhere. Many were appalled at the open verbal support demonstrated at the first Republican Presidential debate when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was asked about the more than 230 prisoners executed in his state during his governorship.

I still shudder at the small-minded behavior of a surly bunch of men berating a crippled man sitting on the ground demonstrating at a government rally. One particularly insensitive cretin took a roll of bills out of his pocket and peeled off a single bill and threw it at the invalid as he shouted some inane remarks. This is not the compassionate America I knew.

The country has been corrupted by a corrupt government. First we had eight years of governance by fear as the former president and his cohorts made one exorbitant mistake after another. Now we have a Congress that has been purchased like puppies in a pet store and trained to do everything that must be done to protect their masters – the very rich..

The ghosts of great presidents of the past are covering their eyes not to see what has happened to their prodigious dream of a great nation inhabited by a great people. To a large degree it is the people who bought the lurid Ronald Reagan line about government being the problem, not the solution, that started it all 31 years ago.

Now it has reached to point that some want to dismantle government altogether and allow the robber barons of the 21st century to take charge. The one percent at the economic top will get richer and the rest will face falling below the poverty line,

This is a complete reversal of all that government stood for when I was growing up. At present it is the Republican hardliners who hold the reins that are pulling the nation down and if they win the presidency next November it is hard to imagine what rollicking price the poor and middle class will pay to enhance the lives of the top one percent.

The way this nation is going at present makes it all the more a contrast with the way things used to be when people were willing to work together for the good of all. Back then the Republicans and Democrats competed with each other, today it is all out warfare with the public being damned.