The End of the World, American Style

There was much hoopla and hullabaloo about the End of the World back in May of this year. That date came and went without an appreciable difference in the condition of the planet, although some people might try to claim we experienced Hell on Earth last week across much of America. However, no sign of the apocalypse. But now our politicians are desperately trying to create a financial End of the World, or at least the End of the American Dream, by not passing the debt ceiling.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and we will no doubt argue endlessly about who caused this, and why. But the sad fact remains, even if we avert this catastrophe in the 11th hour, the trust between the politicians, with the constituents, and with the world economic markets is already broken, and any hope of a functional U.S. government is pretty much dead, at least for a generation.

Civility and a spirit of cooperation are gone, and the Grand American Experiment of compromise and E Pluribus Unum may be irreparably wounded. Is this really the legacy we want to leave for our children?

Here is the acid test: if you would not put up with certain behavior from your children on a playground, then you should not act that way yourself in public, especially in the halls of Congress or in front of cameras.

The true losers in all this are the American people, especially the ones looking for work. The solutions either party is proposing are not going to rev up the economy and create jobs any time soon. It is all political showmanship, and while it makes for a great blood-match game (I watch politics like others watch baseball or football), it is not solving any fundamental problems.

Tom Brokaw, in his book The Greatest Generation, makes a salient point about shared sacrifice. We, the children and grandchildren of "The Greatest Generation," have lost that sense of willingness to sacrifice for the common good, because we have lost the sense of community that binds us together as Americans, 9/11 notwithstanding.

Our current societal model is more like the game of Musical Chairs we played as kids. When the music stops, push the kid next to you out of the way and grab a chair, because somebody is going to be a loser, and it's not going to be me! We have spent decades absorbing movies about political and cultural hellscapes, like Mad Max, Terminator, I Am Legend, 28 Days Later, and many, many others (anybody remember the original Death Race 2000?). Now it seems like we're hellbent on creating such a nightmarish world in reality.

That was the point several commentators were making a few months back about the loss of civility. I am an eternal optimist, and I never think it's too late to do better, to forgive and try again. But if we can't regain that sense of respect and community, that idea that we are all in this together, and pass a debt ceiling increase that is more than political Kabuki theater, then you might as well just shove somebody out of the way and grab a chair for yourself, because it will be the End of the World, as far as American economic, military, and cultural predominance in the world is concerned.
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Alex Howerton

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