By Richard Reeves
Looking at the newspapers this morning, I noticed that Tom Brokaw was making a speech in New York. It made me wonder if he was working on a sequel to his books on "The Greatest Generation." This one might be called "The Worst Generation."
The foreword could include something the president of the United States said Tuesday on a comedy show, the Jay Leno show. He can’t get his message across in "mainstream media," so he slips it in between jokes:
"Look, I think the things that folks across the country are most fed up with—whether you are a Democrat, Republican, independent—is putting party ahead of country or putting the next election ahead of the next generation."
The last few words, of course, are the ones that hurt—the ones for which all of us should be blamed. The next generation will be the inheritor of our excesses, in borrowing, in stupid and unnecessary wars paid for with their credit cards, in allowing the gap in wealth between rich and poor to reach revolutionary levels, in crushing the middle class.
Let me count (a few) of the ways:
We have stood by—and our representatives in Washington have betrayed us—while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, bringing the country’s wealth distribution to where it was in the 1920s. History might record that we brought our troops home from far places to control their fellow citizens—shoot them. Perhaps we will have another Boston Massacre to complement the Tea Party.
We have started at least three wars we could not win, with a volunteer military dying for us—to say nothing of tens of thousands of foreigners killed on their own land—and shielding the American people from the reality and the shame of what we have done, beginning with torture of suspected adversaries. I don’t remember being taught in school that torture was an American weapon of choice.
We are shortchanging the nation on its two most important resources—education and basic research. An amazing percentage of the country—like a cult—simply do not believe in the science and wisdom built over centuries. Parts of the country have become like the Vatican in the Middle Ages, denying all evidence of what the world actually is. The "New Know Nothingness" is not worthy of a small colony in the tropics, but it is thriving in the richest country in the world.
History will judge the Republican Party, with all its diverse elements, for declaring from day one that its primary goal was to do anything to deny a Democratic president a second term. That is an unbelievable attack on democracy itself, and on the country, on the Constitution, on our history. Rule or ruin. My way or the highway, in modern jargon. Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton hated each other and had extraordinary differences on what the country should be. But they worked it out. Mitch McConnell is no Alexander Hamilton. He is only a shrewd, narrow politician whose loyalty is to party rather than country.
We have broken the power of workers to organize. They are no longer citizens, just tools of shrinking onshore industry. What happens to them is no longer a national concern.
The New York Times on Tuesday published a series of polls that indicated that Americans no longer have faith in their government, particularly the Congress. Why should they? The Congress is the most visible institution of the times of the Worst Generation.
© 2011 UNIVERSAL UCLICK
James Vaughan (CC-BY-SA)