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October 27, 2011 by jamesessj

It struck me today that this country is going to Hell in handbasket.

Then it struck me that this is what every American malcontent, of whatever political stripe, has always thought.  “The country’s going to Hell in a handbasket.”

One of the least attractive of American attributes is our complete lack of a sense of history — probably attributable to our relatively brief existence as a nation.  We don’t remember what happened last week, much less last election cycle, much less last decade.  We react to everything as if it’s the first and only time it’s ever happened…but with that good old American undercurrent of blasé cynicism, as if to say, “First time it’s happened, but I can’t say I’m surprised.”

Which ties in with the least attractive American attribute (least attractive to me, at any rate):  the utter inconsistency of nearly every one of our politicians.  I’d call it “hypocrisy,” but hypocrisy implies a kind of malice, and I don’t think the inconsistencies of politicians are born from malice — except insofar as the two parties hate one another and thus everything can be traced back to malice — but rather from narrow-mindedness, tunnel-visioned-ness, and a complete lack of, in this case, a sense of their own history.

As an example.  Iraq vs. Libya.  Liberals are entirely inconsistent about Obama’s Libya policy.  If Bush had done what Obama did — refusing even to get Congressional approval for military action — the left would have gone, in a word, nuts.  Protests daily on the White House lawn.  Commentators up in arms.  “Impeach Bush!” signs on the nightly news.  (Incidentally, liberal crowing about Obama’s “success” in Libya is extraordinarily short-sighted; if the Middle East has taught anyone anything during its many millennia, it’s:  the story’s never over.  Tomorrow will bring some fresh Hell.)

Conservatives, on the other hand, are entirely inconsistent, as well.  “What are we replacing Qadafi with?” they ask.  “We better be sure the new government isn’t worse than Qadafi!”  In the first place, one can never — and I do mean never — tell in which direction a revolution will turn.  The French Revolution was much-praised, in its early stages; as was the Russian.  Some members of the Carter Administration were quite vocal in their support of the Ayatollah, prior to the hostage-taking.  The U.S. can, and should, influence events to the best of its abilities, but predicating our support of a revolution against a terrorist madman on whether that revolution will turn out like the American, or by contrast the Iranian, is never to support freedom-fighters anywhere.  Who can tell the future?  In the second place, I did not hear these sorts of questions asked about Iraq.  Not by conservatives.  They were asked — properly, fairly — by liberals.  Who are not now asking them about Libya.  Inconsistency abounds.

Likewise with economics.  If a Republican president were presiding over the past few years, we’d have heard endless tales of woe, from the media, from the Democrats, about the poor, the middle-class, how everyone everywhere is struggling and people are dying in the streets from malnutrition and general despair.  Instead we’ve heard endless tales of recovery, always right around the corner.  How things are continually looking up.  This from the same folks who found 5% unemployment too high during Bush’s two terms.

Republican inconsistency is no less egregious.  Wall Street is cited as a leading indicator of economic health, until it soars while the country falters; then, suddenly, the Dow Jones doesn’t mean a thing.  It could climb to 20,000, wouldn’t indicate a strengthening economy.

Well, I’m sorry, but what was true yesterday is still true today.  What you said yesterday can’t conveniently transmogrify from day to day, depending on the latest polls, the latest numbers, the latest trends.

Is this asking too much?  Of course it is.  Politicians are what they are.  People.  “People,” as Jerry Seinfeld put it.  “They’re the worst.”

But let’s not forget that we’re not the first generation — nor will we be the last — to despise its Congress, to think of its leaders as weak, ineffectual, incompetent.  This is America.  Where we’re perpetually headed to Hell in a handbasket.  But never do arrive.


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the author, if he lives that long

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October 2011
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