Political apathy? Nah, political crapathy!
By Sarah Little / OB Rag / May 27, 2010
After much introspection I’ve concluded that I’m not politically apathetic. I am politically horrified. I’m socially horrified as well. I look around and see a nation of lemming-like creatures who gasp in horror when tragedy strikes as we turn our collective heads to some overriding power that is supposed to step in to avert or mitigate disaster. FEMA, local law enforcement, OSHA, the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, the School Board, the Constitution, the Pope… God! Someone or something is supposed to make sure “this” doesn’t happen and if it does the “they” are supposed to fix it!
Five years ago Katrina came through and devastated the gulf coast. The TV news was crammed with images of desperate people holding up signs, begging for help. Fingers were pointed, blame cast. It’s was FEMA’s fault, it was the Army Corp of Engineers’ fault, it was somebody’s fault. Forget the fact that we knew we were living in a danger zone with an antiquated protection system, someone, somewhere screwed up and they are going to have to pay. When annual wildfires wreak their havoc in Southern California we scramble to assign responsibility, if not blame, for the damage. Heartsick families stand before TV cameras in tears, vowing to rebuild their stolen dreams. The electric company must be to blame for having, well, electrical towers that spark. Or the developers are to blame for building homes in the desert in the first place. Now families have to start over, rebuild. This issue must be addressed, we scream, as we flip the light switch to get electricity to run the house we can’t afford in the desert that has no water. Someone will pay!
One day in the fall of 2001 terrorists flew airplanes were flown into the twin towers. The words to describe that horror have all been used up. In our shock we stood tall and proud. We screamed about colors not running and we flew the American flag from our truck antennas until Old Glory became Old Rags. As a country we pulled together for one brief moment in time while we simultaneously mouthed the words, “why us?” And by god, we said to one another, someone will pay!
Several years ago an oil tanker missed it’s turn and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine wilderness of Prince William Sound. Tormented sea otters, dead and dying seabirds, slimy shores and hundreds of angry fishermen were seen on national television. We watched in horror and vilified Exxon for the tragedy; we raked public officials over the coals for not having appropriate response procedures in place. We wanted someone to fix it, step up to the plate and admit culpability. I tell you, someone must pay for this!
Now we have the current era of bailouts where we collectively assure our most highly paid citizens, “Don’t worry, we know you’re too big to fail, we’ll take care of everything. We do not hold you responsible”. And the big BP spill where we’re apparently keeping the status quo, “Don’t worry, there’s a cap to your liability and we must have your oil so we will continue to turn a blind eye to your irresponsible actions. We won’t hold you responsible for putting profit over humanity”. Just as we did after their Texas City explosion. We chose to live behind crumbling levees, we turned a blind eye to the warnings over the years and when disaster struck we were helpless, expecting the government to come and make it better. We continue to build and buy houses in deserts and on flood plains because we want to, and I suppose we think that “someone” will help us when nature comes calling.
We buried our heads in the sand and pretended not to notice as we went from being a country that was envied and admired to one being held in contempt as we war over oil. We still have no real mass transit in most US cities and just as Prince William Sound is beginning to recover from the devastation of our greed we have BP spewing globs of crude into the Gulf of Mexico. And we still have no viable electric vehicles.
We bought big houses we didn’t need with more of the money we didn’t have and we bought cheap, fast food we shouldn’t eat and we got fat. We sent our kids to schools that shouldn’t be open where they failed to learn and to churches that harbor child molesters where they were raped (and yet we celebrate with these institutions when they throw carnivals and allow them to remain in our neighborhoods?).
We bought disposal goods that should have been enduring goods, we bought toys painted with lead because they are cheaper. We pretend we don’t benefit from the migrant labor as we raise our arms against illegal immigration. All the while ignoring the fact that if we did not give jobs to those “illegals” they would not come here. We spent money we didn’t have on cars that ran on oil for which we sell our collective souls. We get in our cars and commute to jobs working for people and organizations for whom we probably ought not be working, doing things that, frankly, might not even need to be done.
We gain our wisdom over the airwaves and our opinions from sound bites. All the while we express our outrage at “them”. We’ve handed over our rights because “they” said we must in order to be safe. We have settled for mediocrity and have grown comfy with complacency. We laugh when we’re told to laugh and we cry when we’re told to cry. When we’re told we should protest we scream from street corners and vent on blogs, all the while making heros out of entertainers claiming to be journalists and following pop stars more closely than the people we’ve elected to keep us safe.
Politically apathetic? No, it’s just that the noise to signal ratio is intolerable and I’m no Don Quixote. I’m weary of talking about what’s wrong and why. We all know what’s wrong and why.
We’re greedy, we’re short-sighted, our system of electing leaders is broken and we’re hooked on comfort. To top it all off, we never look in the mirror when we’re looking for answers.
I hate to have to be the one to break the news but we are the Emperor and we’re naked as the day we were born.
Or am I Chicken Little?