Nothing New Under the Sun

 

As the election draws nears, I’m half-loathing myself for how much I got caught up in it. Politics as sports can pull me in from time to time, and when it does I take it as a sign of how lazy and/or uninspired I have become. Who are these candidates, or political parties, to me? Having two thoughts about them is a waste of time.

After watching ten minutes of the last debate, for example, that’s how I felt: here is just one more manifestation of an escapist society. With a lot of my friends it’s different, because they seriously think something is at stake here. The thought that Hillary might not win has them biting their fingernails.

I’m not that far into it, thank God. How can I be when it seems to me that Trump is trying to lose. And why not? In losing he would have four years of saying “I told you so,” whereas in winning he would be on the spot to fulfill all those empty platitudes. To make America great again.

In winning, what would he have to look forward to but a lot of embarrassing backtracking on boastful promises? That fifty foot concrete wall along the 2000 mile Mexico border will never be built. Embarrassment number one. Many more to follow. He has to know. But if he loses, he’s off the hook. He’s in the catbird seat.

Yet there is something powerful in a guy that wants to lose, and that does pique my interest somewhat: how he becomes relaxed, doesn’t have to do any homework, can say whatever t’ hell he wants to say. And how long has it been since a main stream politician has said anything other than what he or she thinks will get them elected?

Maybe in the endgame of this contest, Clinton will also start saying what she really thinks. Why should she want to win either, considering the mess she will be handed (for which she and the future first gentleman should, but don’t, shoulder a share of responsibility)? Remember how hard it was recently to find a replacement for John Boehner as the Speaker of the House, formerly a highly coveted position. After many flatly declined, Paul Ryan had to be begged to take it.

Is the day dawning when nobody in their right mind wants the presidency, knowing how badly the infrastructure of America is crumbling? And I’m not referring to only to bridges and lead-infested water pipelines.

. . .

The trouble with me is that I’ve become an Ecclesiastes guy. There’s nothing new under the sun. You have to do a little digging, but the further you look into it, American government has been on its present course since day one — since before day one, when we as British subjects were stealing the land from the First Nations and calling it good. The big fish eat the little fish.

Dishonesty, thievery, murder, malfeasance are as natural to politicians as big fish eating little fish. And it’s never going to change. As for malfeasance, I’m not talking about anything so crass as American presidents taking bribes. Bribes are more apt to exist at the congressional level or in a mayor’s office. When it comes to presidents and supreme court appointees, I’m thinking of a slipperier kind of moral turpitude more appropriate to those who have outgrown outright bribery.

For Obama to appoint into high offices men like Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers — the same who presided over the economic collapse of 08 — that was malfeasance of the darkest order; and, as I understand it, the bailed out banks and insurance companies are more powerful and corrupt than ever. Too big to fail then? Even bigger now! Nothing has been reformed. A much worse than the 2008 collapse is inevitable and not far off. Same thing would have happened if McCain or Romney had been the president.

For George W. Bush to make specious claims of weapons of mass destruction in Iraqi hands as the basis of invasion was unforgivable malfeasance, maybe worse than President Johnson using the Gulf of Tonkin incident (which never actually occurred) to justify the massive escalation of the war in Vietnam. Same things would have happened had Gore or Goldwater been president.

For the Supreme Court in 2014 to overturn the limits on how much money one person can contribute to any one campaign was malfeasance on the grandest order. So now what has always been is more out in the open: a government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. If you want to express what mostly goes on in those beautiful government buildings in our nation’s capital, say that here is where the rich people in America protect their wealth — knowing of course that a small percentage of it has to trickle down to the little fish. No matter how big you get, you don’t want to starve out the little fish entirely. You still need little fish to eat for dinner and clean your toilets for you. It’s in the order of things.

Gridlock in Washington? The difference between Republicans and Democrats can be largely summed up in one observation. Republicans say that the little fish can do with even less; the Democrats say, yes, but don’t go too far in that direction or you’ll foment unrest.

. . .

There’s nothing new under the sun. If the price of liberty is constant vigilance, we the people in America haven’t paid it. And we never will. How can we if we don’t know what’s important to be vigilant about. Plato knew way back in ancient Greece that the people will never grasp their own best interests nor the common good.

“The people, sir, are a beast,” Alexander Hamilton famously said, in argument for an elitist, less democratic government. It turns out it was Hamilton’s vision of America which came to pass, not Jefferson’s democracy. America simply reshaped the old world aristocracy. It was our destiny. The Bible says so. “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. jamesralston@hotmail.com (Post author)

    Hey, Dixie. Thanks for the comment. I miss you as a big part of such discussions. Hope all is well with you, too. I want to publish your poem in this year’s “Outlets,” which is coming back in print. You know the one I’m thinking of.

    Reply
    1. Dixie

      Great! What a compliment! I’d love to get a copy. Thank you.

      Reply
  2. Dixie

    I miss class discussions like this. Hope all is well.

    Reply

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