Sub-Titles

The sub-title of Mike Lofgren’s, “The Party Is Over”, is “How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted”. The sub-title struck me as a morality tale in and of itself and reminded me of “The Death of Character”, by James Davidson Hunter published several years earlier. The sub-title of Hunter’s is “Moral Education in an Age Without Good and Evil”. While Hunter explores how a lack of moral sensibility leads a society to failure Lofgren details how this is actually happening in the US. The books are closely related, the theme of both being the lack of morality in the social commons. We experience this lack nearly every day in the melodrama of politics at the national level, a cruder version at the state level, antics at the international level, and in the conduct of life in general. Is this a new normal or has it ever been different?

When politics and religion are joined at the hip they become a force, a Trojan Horse within the society causing good and evil to lose their meanings. The ethical contrast between what is right and what is wrong becomes diluted creating a moral morass with no compass pointing the way out. We, perforce, come to be a society adrift, a population set against itself. Tri-corner hats, knickers and white knee socks are not what this country ever was and claiming otherwise is simplistic and dishonest. It is misdirected street theater acting out juvenile fantasies, a dream world that never existed. (Oh, by the way, the original Tea Partiers disguised themselves as Mohawk Indians not middle-class burghers.) The right questions are not being addressed. Our real problems as a country have not been caused by the working poor, unwed mothers, impoverished elderly, nor homeless people. We are being bombarded with the politics of distraction; a cover-up. Moral questions must be asked.

What kind of moral country have we become where an 81-year-old woman can be arrested and jailed for feeding birds on her own property or where a judge lightly sentences a man for raping a girl he knew was underage on the premise she seemed older than she was. Dilution of right and wrong takes place everyday and at all levels of society. A dilution to the extent that public trust of law enforcement agencies and officers is reduced to fear and disrespect, us and them. There isn’t any clear path to trusting police when a bed-ridden elderly man in his 80s is shot to death because a home-invading police officer suspects the guy has a gun, or when a kid answers the door for police and is shot to death because his TV game remote is mistaken for a weapon. There are so many examples it makes a person’s head swim. Dilution is become dissolution and dissolution inevitably becomes disintegration. A society disintegrates when people lose interest in the social contract to concentrate on personal survival.

Lofgren’s book details his experiences over 28 years in the Congressional cesspit of national partisan politics and the narrow craven interests driving a socially destructive political agenda. Lofgren worked as a Republican staffer and as a Senior Analyst for the House and Senate Budget Committee. Elected officials he reveals are in service to insatiable billionaires and corporations for whom there is no “enough”.  More importantly, aside from profit, they have no social contract with America. It was difficult to read Lofgren’s book because so much of what he describes with an insider’s knowledge of detail is discouraging and, more than that, disgusting.

Hunter, the author of “The Death of Character”, posits “History and philosophy both suggest to us that the flourishing of character rooted in elevated values is essential to justice in human affairs; its absence, a measure of corruption and a portent of social and political collapse, especially in a democracy.” What better measure could be offered than the fact that the US has been at war somewhere in the world without a draft military since 1973, since the war in Vietnam? From 2000 onwards, the military budget has just about doubled while budgets and support for public education and health care have dramatically diminished. Who profits from this game?

Together these two books paint a sad picture of America’s devolution from inclusion to exclusion, from the sort of patriotism that motivates individuals to place the common good above self-interest to socially destructive thoughtlessness and selfishness heedless of the commons we must all, like it or not, share. It is especially difficult, I think, for those who have known a better time which, while not free of similar issues, was not defined by them.

There was a time when public officials appearing at political conventions did not cravenly proclaim a direct line to God, mock the President, out and out lie for applause, or shamelessly wave rifles around to demonstrate their manliness or whatever it is they suppose waving a gun proves. It isn’t so much what a person does as what won’t they do that defines them. It would appear the sub-title of American politics has become “There is Very Little Some Politicians Won’t Do, Consequences Be Damned”.

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2 Responses to “Sub-Titles”


  1. 1 S. Bradley March 20, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    EC, *You’re getting better and better!* Things are getting worse and worse. Your essay made me reconsider my own actions of several years ago. During the sabbatical between seasons of Wildfire, I had the chance to overturn a homicide conviction of Pedro Antion in Judge Peggy Nelson’s court. I not only proved that the kid was innocent but that the Taos County Sheriff and his deputy had framed the kid. Judge Nelson told me that what the two did was “Malicious Prosecution”, a felony, and that they would go to prison for years. She also said that it would happen only if I testified and that they could “get me” even from inside prison…that the one thing a person never wants to do is to send a sheriff, or a cop, to prison. She suggested that I “Walk away”, drop the entire issue, think about becoming a PI and that I should start carrying a gun in case these two learned why Pedo was released after being convicted. I thought that the advise of an Eight District Judge was probably pretty sound and the case ended there. I wonder now, if I did the right thing by letting those two go unpunished for their actions. What damage they have done since, I don’t know but they are still free to frame people for things they never did. It reminds me of Mark Furman’s remarks after the “Trial of the Century” of all the people he had helped convict by planting evidence on them. If I’m ever called to jury duty again I plan to lay it out for the court that I won’t put up with the system’s shit and I doubt that they will ever want me again. Anyway, I wonder, now, what I should have done…I guess that I sold out for my own safety but I’m not bullet-proof and “it’s not really my job”. Just wondering!! SB

  2. 2 Shirley S. Oaks March 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

    GOOD ONE, EMANUEL ! x o x, Shirley


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