|I opened my local newspaper today to read about our state's health care system teetering on the edge of collapse, as government revenues dry up. I saw a story about those same government revenues being used to subsidize the financial industry's efforts to outsource American jobs. I read about statehouse Republicans trying to destroy even the most minimal rules making sure that oil and gas companies don't destroy the local environment.
And then I read the frivolous front-page dispatch about how having Barack Obama's personal email address is the new status symbol in Washington, D.C. I read the paper's lead editorial (adjacent to the editorial about the scary airport horse), attacking the stimulus bill not for wasting too much money on needless tax cuts, but for "rais[ing] the bar on yearly government spending to dizzying heights" and applauding House Republicans for opposing it.
The same editorial board, of course, applauded the similarly-sized bank bailout back in September, saying it "should result in lasting reforms to our nation's financial structure" and telling wavering congresspeople that - despite the bailout's utter lack of transparency and oversight - "inaction [in voting yes on the bailout] is not an option."
Indeed, those with the luxury of pondering The World gossip like schoolchildren about the president's Blackberry, defend handing taxpayer cash to Wall Street fat cats, and attack those who want to spend money on creating jobs here at home. Meanwhile, the real world burns.
On quiet Sunday mornings all over the world, people are likely reading the same stories in their local newspapers (if they are still lucky to have a local newspaper). And we are all feeling that our worlds are closing in on us as our government laughs - a feeling that is rooted in concrete fact. As Rep. Barney Frank (D) said this morning on ABC's This Week (in one of the rare moments when he's not coddling Big Money), "I don't think there has ever been in American history -- certainly not in my memory -- a greater split between the opinion of people you would describe as the elites in the economy and the academy, et cetera, and the average American."
He's right - and that's an overwhelming thing to swallow. The media/political Establishment - including a new administration brought to power on the promise of "change" - still seems far more interested in making the Great and Serious Ponderers of The World comfortable than in working for the Rest of Us.
And this gets us back to the most basic cliched truisms that every past generation has been forced to face up to at times of crisis: "Power concedes nothing without demand" and "we are the ones we've been waiting for."
No one is coming to rescue us - not Barack Obama, not your senator, not your governor, nobody. When the prospect of American taxpayer money being spent in America is called "controversial," when giving money to Manhattan millionaires takes priority over a crumbling public health system, when bank executives fund presidential inaugurations with their taxpayer-subsidized bonuses, when hiring lobbyists as government officials empowered to dole out money to the corporations they just lobbied for is the norm, it's clear we're going to have to rescue ourselves - because no one else will. And that means making those power players concede what we want.
How to do that? There are a million different ways at every single level of political engagement - but it starts first and foremost by resisting the urge to worship power, and embracing the call to challenge it. If that change in mindset does not happen, then we are all obliviously partying on the Titanic while the iceberg approaches.