By MORT PERSKY
Good morning, America, my old friend, land that saved me and my family from Old World fires! What's become of our "free country," anyway, and doesn't anyone care? What in God's name is going on in Washington? Is there anybody left who answers to the name "American," as in the meanings "American" and "America" used to have?
Or is it all over for freedom of the press and all kinds of dissent, just like in Mao's China and the present China, which our apparently unembarrassed government continues to rebuke unself-consciously for behaving the same way we ourselves have apparently learned to behave, perhaps from the Chinese. Did we really like their model?
And if not, why don't we behave as if we notice we've made the change and who we now resemble? Why can't we see how we look in our self-ignorance as we arrest and/or intimidate people as the Chinese do, exactly the people we need to wake us up and point that out? Because it's high time we began turning back from wherever we've strayed, and suppression of free speech is the worst possible place to start, but we're already there.
Yes, of course the way we're treating Manning, Snowden, Assange and now Greenwald is exactly what we've always reproached totalitarian countries for doing. We've succeeded far too well in turning these rareties -- four people willing to take huge risks to tell us what's wrong -- into criminals in the public mind, just as the countries we rebuke did and still do, while we annoy them by lionizing their Snowdens.
Good Lord, is this real? Has anybody looked at our "logo" lately, the flag of this once-great nation, great because it didn't do such things, or which once upon a time didn't appear to do them knowingly? And even our diaphanous excuses then were a noticeable improvement over what we've worked out for ourselves during our most recent presidencies.
What's up, Washington? Where's the country our Founding Fathers took the trouble of setting rules for in a document called the U.S. Constitution, the same rules that one of our political parties is even now cancelling out line by line, according to its own wishes? We still call it our rulebook (even in its ominous absence), the one that almost made it to age 200 in reasonably presentable condition, but for those nagging and oft-ignored complaints from citizens of a different color or sexual preference -- complaints from which a big segment of the citzenry apparently learned that not all rules must be followed, those based on fairness to be regarded as particularly onerous. Those based on shooting people to be most lightly and tenderly enforced.
And now breaking the Constitution's rules on the nation's highest court has become a political sport and pastime played by uncaring "justices" in black robes, enough of them with no consciences to speak of and no thought of imposing real justice, but unequivocally devoted to obliterating one step at a time the document on which they claim all their decisions rest.
Can we cure this self-destructive, self-aggrandizing gamesmanship while also doing the opposite of curing anything, harassing those whose careers require them to tell us the whole truth in their media, though they currently don't. And there's government aid to bolster their shirking! We've still got the Constitution, but like the flag, it's treated like a dead or obsolesced symbol with only a few downgraded humans to speak out for it loudly enough to be heard. This turns out to be their problem and ours, though most forcefully claimed as a problem by the harassers and jailers. And some of us actually expect the poor beset few to awaken their country to what's become of it.
No wonder we ask ourselves if we can have any effect on our government beyond the votes we cast, making our choices with full confidence as if we had no clue that our political parties, particularly the Republican one but the Democratic one not excepted, were lying to them. So one might call it sheer luck that those who make an art of lying and fact-distortion keep pulling the least educated voters to their polls, provided they are also white. Thus professional legislators and office-holders have become an aristocracy of know-nothings, the persons least able to recognize the truth were it to pour down on them from the skies. As for voters who know the truth, whose TV commercials do they like this year?
And in this mendaciousness and inability to recognize truth when it shows its face lies the truest essence of our downfall, more than in our self-spying programs, our phony, thoughtless (and undeclared) wars in foreign countries, our idiot love of "better" weapons programs, and our war on dissent here at home.
"Dare we open our mouths?" hints at an un-Americanness so deep that no "Un-American Activities" investigators ever considered the question. And it cries out to be asked harder, more often & right now, remaining a bad bet to be uttered by non-risk-takers.
Alas, the question of opening our mouths was no total stranger even in the much better America, the one I don't have to break a sweat to remember. That America must be caught by the tail and hoisted onto dry land before it becomes a memory -- keeping the question ask-able, not accepted fact about the USA, version 21.0.