Go ahead, America. Tie one on.
Let’s get it out of our system: our sick and ailing body politic. Let’s see how drunk we can get on the likes of Donald Trump and the Bundy brothers. Let’s stagger around in swagger, enjoying the warm rush of bravado that only our American concoction can deliver.
Then, let’s sober up and get down to the real business of governance.
The political brew of our times — a strong swirl of xenophobia, religious bigotry, gun rights, and trickle-down economics — is, in the end, poison. It’s a specially fermented brand of identity politics, designed to extract votes from white, working-class people.
The elixir helps us take our minds off the bigger, more pressing issues: our nation’s evolving role in a very scary world, and the forever-changed nature of work. Automation; overseas outsourcing; corporate dominance; cheap labor markets in the Third World; an entire sector that makes its money by gambling on Wall Street; and a broken, completely monetized electoral system: All of these things threaten to derail the American dream.
And that makes us anxious.
So we drink our bad brew and look around for people to blame for our struggles: Mexican immigrants. Syrian immigrants. Muslims. Gay people. Black people. Feminists. Atheists. People who don’t follow the right interpretation of the Bible. And, of course, the government.
Forty years of this noxious mash has led us to a near-fatal stupor.
What other than the political equivalent of “beer goggles” would prompt the eminently reasonable John McCain to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate? What else could bring us to the point where potential GOP-presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously advocating a religious test for new immigrants?
Oh, but that tough talk is so intoxicating!
What a nice, nostalgic-for-high-school buzz the nation got when Palin poked fun at Obama’s “mom jeans.” What warm, heady laughs America enjoyed when Trump insulted everyone from supermodel Heidi Klum (“no longer a ‘10’”) to actor Robert DeNiro (“not Albert Einstein”).
Trump saved his worst insult, however, for his biggest rivals, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to the reality-TV boss who can slam Muslims and leap tall buildings in a single day, Bush and Clinton are “low energy.”
Maybe they’re introverts. Maybe they’re contemplative.
Maybe, as my Grandma used to say, “Still waters run deep.”
While Trump, by contrast, just runs.
What other but our toxic, electoral swill could embolden a treasonous band of armed insurgents to take over a federal building in Oregon?
Gun-toting ranchers are occupying the building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, just outside the township of Burns. Their leader is Ammon Bundy and his two brothers, all sons of the domestic terrorist from Nevada, Cliven Bundy.
Dubbed “armed protesters” by the news media, these insurrectionaries are angry that a federal court ruled against their fellow ranchers, convicted arsonists Dwight and Stephen Hammond. The court lengthened the Hammonds’ sentences for burning federal lands.
The Bundy brothers, like their father, are turning land management disputes with the federal government into questions of territorial sovereignty. And while they say they don’t intend to harm anyone, they came armed, and have promised to defend themselves as necessary.
That’s not peaceful protest. It’s armed insurgency.
By calling for other “patriots” to come help locals “claim back their land,” the Bundy brothers are setting the stage for an armed conflict similar to their father’s Nevada standoff over impounded cattle.
After the standoff, Cliven Bundy found conservative-media celebrity, which he promptly used to share his racist views with the rest of America. He claims that his states’ rights views were a revelation from God.
We’ve gone around the bend, our country has, and it’s going to take more than 30 days in detox to bring us back. It’s going to take every peace-loving defender of the U.S. Constitution to stand up and say, “No more,” not only in print, but at the ballot box.
Only We the People can do this. Our would-be leaders, faced with armed traitors challenging the authority of the United States government, have chosen to remain silent. They stand to lose votes, you see, for the presidency of a government that their constituents claim is illegitimate.
Will we destroy ourselves with identity politics? Or will we get sober, quit blaming the “other,” and try to figure out how to make America work better for everyone? Right now, we seem to want to continue our indulgence. The first step toward healing, it is said, is admitting we have a problem.
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Julie Delegal, a University of Florida alumna, is a contributor for Folio Weekly, Jacksonville’s alternative weekly, and writes for the family business, Delegal Law Offices. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida.
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