Reading anew, the work of Arthur Miller, The Crucible, I am amazed at how my perspective has changed with age. The continuing slide farther to the right of nearly half of America, since at least the first Reagan administration, has again revealed the great dividing gulf that the author explored in The Crucible. Utilizing the Salem witch-hunts of the seventeenth century as, perhaps, an analogy of Hitler's 'Final Solution' and, or, what was even more immediately concerning to Mr. Miller, Joe McCarthy's 'Un-American' threshing machine, the author painted a picture that could have just as well captured the Civil War, the civil rights rebellion of the 1960’s, and, now, the fight to save, and restore, a middle class, that has been all but eliminated by the power elite of this country and threatens our very democracy, and liberties.
The apparent shift towards the 'middle of road' or 'riding the fence' that lasted well into the 1970’s was merely a mirage. After what appeared to be, political, civil, and human rights victories of the sixties, too many were put off of their guard and allowed neo-cons to move their trenches, fundamentally, far to the right, and dig in, during the Reagan years. Progressive fears, and response, only managed two terms of 'lame duck' administrations but, in spite of the Republican Congress, Clinton's economic success restored the left's faith in their view of America. The smoke-hazed and funhouse mirrors-enhanced image of a recovered middle class was magnified-- until the Persian rug was yanked from under them.
The brown-shirted neo-cons who seized power with more vengeance than vigilance, and a ‘shock and awe’ agenda, took quick advantage after allowing the worst attack, ever, on American soil. U.S. strategists made only a token advance in Afghanistan before dropping the Halliburton supplied $4000 hammer on Baghdad. Americans had been unconstitutionally deprived of a popularly, and probably electorally, elected president, for an imposter; nearly a trillion war dollars taken from their pockets and delivered, for the most part, to the richest Americans. Our privacy was tapped and continues to be infringed on, due to the current Republican congressional majority. Americans’ fear of the breakdown of their democracy, their loss of liberty, was much, much greater than that posed by terrorists.
Although brought up in a lower middle class family by parents who, unfailingly, voted Democrat-- business and political science college courses in the late 1970's had this one, temporarily, seeing a friendlier, 'fence-riding', concept of our partisan form of government. Remember the Republican ideal of less government, stronger business? They now have a fully symbiotic relationship, the right wing cannot survive without mega-business and corporate corruption and predation cannot survive without right wing politicians… and a majority. This is key-- the more they fear for their survival, the more desperate, and despicable, the attempts to control our electoral process. With even the majority of U.S. Supreme Court Justices in their pockets, corporate American need not even fear the U.S. Constitution, as they can have it ultimately decided in their favor, they only have to maintain control of our Federal Congress. And, so far, political corruption is preventing progressive attempts to restore our democracy as its system of checks and balances has become mere metaphors for the bank funds used to tilt our system to the right.
A string of faux cowboys came riding in to D.C., oratorical guns blazing (though, too often, one’s misfiring). They took credit for tearing the 'wall' of communism down. Though interrupted by two terms of a strong leader, albeit a limping waterfowl running afoul of a snipe hunt, the wild-west show continued, only the scenery was reset. The new, showboating, ‘sheriff’ claimed to have made our ‘Homeland’ safer, albeit, after ignoring the threat that allowed the worst attack on American soil, ever.
Gradually, not so much discreetly as deceptively, during their twenty-plus years in control, the neo-cons burned the bridges that had been built, during the greater Twentieth Century, over the great chasm that has threatened American society in all of our darkest days. It seems that the Puritans, the earliest American spin-doctors, weren't, and aren’t, as pure as they would have us believe. Empathy-oriented people, less concerned with material growth as inwardly spiritual (the two have been shown to be mutually exclusive), are, ironically on the other side of the great American gulf from self-centered, greed-driven individuals who use the church and their concept of god as a pair of aces showing in a game of stud. Christopher Bigsby hints of both in the introduction to Miller’s controversial attempt at literal morally therapeutic blood-letting, from which ricochets and shrapnel wounded him, also. Bigsby notes of the antagonists; prominent pastor, the character most symbolic of the church, and the self-righteous justices, the gargoyle-like figureheads staring down their noses from one side of the chasm; and the protagonist; destined to be sacrificed, standing for those on the other; “It was also a community riven with schisms, which centered on the person of the Reverend Parris, whose materialism and self-concern were more than many could stomach, including a landowner and innkeeper called John Proctor… …Proctor and his judges were articulate people, even if they were fluent in different languages: he, in that of a common-sense practicality, they in that of a bureaucratic theocracy.”
It is no coincidence that the crucibles that have repeatedly come before us are more often than not rooted in the conservative south. Is the stronghold of the Puritans in the deep south, also? Looking at the roots of the religious-right lobby, the answer appears to be, “Yes.” The southern states fought, at the cost of over half a million lives, to deprive humans of freedom for fear of the wealthiest losing some net worth; the strongest bastion of resistance to human rights in this country has been, and is still, the south. Now, they would see most of us financially enslaved, barely able to survive, let alone save and invest. College? Not if they can help it. An educated electorate is the neo-cons second greatest fear-- after a tamper-proof election system.
Sadly, this is where America appears to be at, once again, glaring at each other across this massive rift. On one side, hands reaching out in attempts to assist, are those more concerned with community and what can be done to make it better. On the other side, looking down from an assumed higher bluff, are those with hands extended, palm upward, demanding more; those most concerned with self and social image, their necessary institutions, and what each can do-- for them. The question that needs to be asked is, can bridges between the opposing sides of this abyss continual to be constructed, only to be ultimately destroyed, again and again, or will the continuing erosion of ethics and empathy wear the chasm ever wider until we can no longer reach across, or even meet in the middle?
The more community-oriented, the community which, in its most diminutive sense, intends to include each and every one of us, and, in the largest sense, means the entire country (the collective U.S.), have failed to hold an advantage for long, perhaps because of our very dislike, disdain, or distrust of power-wielding, the “Catch-22” of empathy. Power, and authority, usually gained utilizing amassed wealth, that we need to protect our cherished form of government and its systems of checks and balances is, yet, a foreign concept to many progressive-minded people, not necessary in a ‘perfect’ democracy. Part of an, imagined, ideal community, we failed to realize how great our need is. The power-elite, neo-cons, religious right, etc., ironically much more afraid that the majority, the working class, will reduce their power, then we of them reducing our liberties, realized this decades ago and have striven to protect their institutions by seizing control of ours. Too many times in the last three decades, the U. S. Constitution has been compromised via a conservative-controlled Congress and Supreme Court, to a] enable a conservative Executive Branch, which allowed them to, then, b] load (or ‘partisanize’)the Supreme Court, and lesser appellate courts, with more conservative Justices to ensure that they could have the last say for a long, long, time, if not permanently. Our founding fathers did not plan for this important tool of our democracy, the U.S. Supreme Court, to be so used, but they did fear it.
The right wing takeover of the government was completed when the Republican Party utilized the conservative controlled Congress and Supreme Court to decide the y2000 Presidential election, effectively turning the U. S. Constitution into so much toilet paper. This placed all three branches of our government, and hence our entire system of checks and balances, under their control. Now, though Progressive voters overwhelming ended the conservatives’ control of the executive branch with a Democratic President, the Republican efforts to circumvent the American majorities wishes have increased. We won’t get into how the ethnicity of President Barack Obama has furthered the conservatives’s march to the wilderness of the far right, but, obstructionism has never been used to such extremes to beat a man that they couldn’t defeat in the polls, ever, in the annals of American politics.
The progressives’ indignant realization that our system of government was falling like a cherry tree from a Washingtonian hatchet job fueled them to great achievement, briefly regaining the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal government. Sadly, they, then, appeared to rest on their laurels, too secure, once again. When Pelosi should have taken serious actions against the Constitutional violations by the previous administration, the left majority let those who would have their way with our democracy of of the chopping block, when the most serious of messages should have been sent, to the whole world, that our system still works. The neo-cons got right to work and used false claims, and mock outrage, mimicking those who had vocalized our real reasons to fear, during the previous presidency, to power the Republican party to regain the majority in the U.S. House and several states.
The current Democrat ‘lame duck’ presidency, the progressive repercussion to the perceived rape of America during George III's administrations, may only serve to widen the void beyond our skills to bridge, again. The right-wing is now the pot calling the kettle black by claiming that the Obama administration is using Orwellian doublespeak, the literary expression brought painfully back into the collective conscious, as opposed to those unconscious, of the country by the Bush-Cheney Gang. Now, how long will it be before we are, again (remember the McCarthy witch hunt), faced with the choice of pointing our fingers at innocent others to save ourselves?
Crucibles have been forged maybe a half of a dozen times throughout American history. These times have always been met with the expense, sometimes too great to measure, of human sacrifice. We can no longer assume that the American way will persevere because it is served by Mom, with apple pie on the side. If we don’t fight, hard, for every seat, in every house, in every state, the same justices who condemned John Proctor will decide our fate, forever. A flawed ballot and electoral system, plus a partisan-controlled U. S. Supreme Court, is our country’s Achille’s heel.
The right-wing understands that it can get away with almost anything as long as it holds at least five Justices. And, they will always hold that hand, as long as they are dealing. We have seen them use that refuge, a partisan controlled U.S. Supreme Court, too many times since y2000; almost always whittling away at our liberties in one way or another, in spite of the cries of outrage from the American majority. The Citizens United and McCutcheon v. Federal Election Committee decisions by the conservative controlled U.S. Supreme Court has basically given the keys of our democracy to the richest people in the world. Because justices are appointed by Congress rather than elected by voters, controlling the House of Representatives and the Senate is the only way American citizens have to control the political make-up of the courts. As stated, our electoral system has proven fallible in its present state, and will be cheated, again, by those with the most monetary power. A verifiable ballot system is necessary to protect the majority of citizens in the United States of America from the power-elite. Only when every American’s vote is counted will we be able to not only bridge the great American abyss, but, eliminate it, entirely.
If that thought pleases you, please read my novel, Dreamview Two – The Kamikaze Candidate. This story offers dreams of a truly self-governed world of the future, where every vote counts, for every issue, as our archaic representative form of government has been replaced by one of self-representation, thanks to the efforts of our modern day protagonist.