Harper's magazine, in its latest (September 2008) issue carries an article titled, "The Naughts," by Roger D. Hodge.
What follows are a few excerpts which I believe to be especially pertinent as we try to decipher just what the hell went wrong in the United States of America.
"The 2000s--perhaps we should call them the Naughts, since they will be remembered chiefly for their wants--were a decade in which the American Republic finally succumbed to a kind of autoimmune disorder, in which the social and political systems normally responsible for maintaining the healthy functioning of the body politic have instead turned against it with particular savagery, as if our very Constitution were an invasive foreign organism. The causes of the disorder are obscure. ... As with other diseases, this one masks itself with opportunistic infections, hides under assumed names, and thus has often escaped accurate diagnosis. The humdrum corruption of political machinery, the passivity of screen-addled citizens, ignorant pedagogues, job-gobbling immigrants, malevolent divines, greedy corporate grandees, the timidity of bourgeois journalists, the sinister conniving of neoconservative and liberal intellectuals, and homosexuals living in holy matrimony have all been adduced as causes of the national decline. Proximity cannot be denied, yet none of these putative causes appears to be sufficient to the magnitude of the disorder. What can be said with some certainty, however, is that we are now exiles in a strange land; America is no longer America.
"In one domain of our national life after another, the old American ideals and liberties have been replaced by their opposites. Torture, once a reliable attribute of Nazis, Communists, and Eastern despots, has become official government policy. The Department of Justice has been transformed into the corrupt instrument of a partisan agenda. Habeas corpus is but a fond memory, as is the Fourth Amendment, with its fellows soon to follow. ...
"The disease manifested itself almost everywhere at once, but the superficial effects were most spectacular in our national mirror: the Media, which absorbed and digested the once proud opposition of the Press and made it a mere legitimizer of horrors. The self-refuting absurdity of the Bush presidency, with its pretensions to manufacture an imperial reality, parallels the rise of the aggressively oxymoronic genre of 'Reality Television,' with all its unintentional ironies. ...
"... Not only have we been made to witness the betrayal of almost every promise made by our Founding Fathers, and seen their direst prophesies confirmed, we must also suffer the indignity of seeing our constitutional ideal turned into a shabby mockery of itself. ..."
That's enough. I have no answer. I can only weep for what once was. The America in which I grew up, while by no means without fault, did at least stand for something grand -- a vision of freedom and the possibility of goodness, undergirded by the Constitution.
It ain't like it used to be! In eight god-forsaken years a tinpot dictator and his hired henchmen have turned what was once possible greatness into a broken-down banana republic, ruled not by law but by whims of power.